A sneak peek of my book in progress, A Series of Precarious Balances.
Every human is daily faced with decisions between two (or more) options. Some are smaller choices like where to eat lunch, or what podcast to play. But others are much larger; they are decisions we will adhere ourselves to for months, years, or our entire lives.
Will you be a Democrat or Republican?
Will you marry this woman, that one, or remain single?
Will you be a Christian or Atheist?
These are not small decisions, and where we land on each one will determine a lot about our futures and our lives. The past few years have proven that the human tendency is to polarize toward one extreme or another, not toward a healthy balance in the middle.
As Christians especially, we must resist the temptation to centrifugally swing toward one end rather than sifting through all the information and making an informed stance somewhere in the gray in-between.
Let’s examine a harmless, peaceful example: American politics.
Christian Democrats will argue that theirs is the Christian party, as it aims to treat all people equally and seek justice for all. They have an emphasis on diversity and inclusion which reflects the heart of God. To vote otherwise would simply be un-Christian!
Republicans on the other hand strive toward a traditional view of the family, a value on life in the womb, and on liberty in the lives and actions of citizens. These are also biblical principles which make a valid case for voting Republican as a believer.
My dad’s church reports being split roughly 50/50 between Conservatives and Liberals, and he states that this is a sign of a healthy church. Why? Because Christians are people who are able to recognize the strengths and admit the weaknesses in every side of an issue.
Swinging to the name-calling extreme of either end is the real un-Christian option.
A Christian posture does not opt toward a closed-ear stance which sings “la la la, I can’t hear you!” Rather, a Christian stance is one that can hear all sides of an argument, fairly consider them, and find the balance which rests on the strengths of both extremes. You may land slightly more toward the Republican side or the Democratic one, and this is perfectly fine. But to assume that the other side has absolutely no merit, is stupid, insane, and nonsensical is not going to benefit you as you live and think, and it will only vilify fellow humans made in the image of God.
We must find the balance between extremes.
To lazily topple to one side or the other is not the work of a thoughtful Christian, but the end result of blindly ingesting the voices of just one biased side or the other.
We must maintain our series of precarious balances in all areas of life, in every decision we make and in every belief we hold, as this is the life of all believers.
Easy peasy, right?
& & &
Dogma and Liberty.
Wealth and Poverty.
Expression and Humility.
Discipline and Grace.
Each dichotomy is not only a binary every human must decide between, but one they must construct in the first place. If we say that every path we will walk in life is an attempt to tread out a balance between two extremes, first we must determine which extremes are so at odds with one another. This may seem easy, and in some cases, it is, but in others, determining said extremes may not prove so simple.
An easy one is the balance between wealth and poverty. Clearly an excess of material goods is the opposite of a dearth of them. Absence and presence of resources.
Many Christians opt toward a ‘poverty mindset,’ believing that a good Christian must resist the impulse to accumulate too many material goods and therefore remain poor. Objects are the enemy.
May Christians have fallen victim to the opposing theology which is often more destructive. It’s a theology which preaches that material possessions are the ultimate good; that your faith will be rewarded in this life with riches, a giant house, and perfect children.
See how this is an easy dichotomy to create? Both extremes are detrimental to human flourishing and to good, robust theology of wealth and possessions.
Other Christians, likely more wise and faithful, strive to acquire resources in order to use them to further the Kingdom of God, funding missionaries and donating to charities. They do not see material resources as an enemy, but as a good to be put to use for the bettering of the world. They are not greedy and letting their possessions own them, nor are they seeking poverty as a means of proving their devotion.
Attaining this balance is difficult.
All of life, though, is an examination of such extremes and figuring out where to land on the spectrum. It is safe to say that landing on the side of either extreme is always going to be dangerous, even if it is an easier option.
There are spectrums which are not so simple though. For example, compare these verses:
“Worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth.”
“[Jesus was] full of grace and truth.”
Here we are presented with two balances which both involve the idea of ‘truth.’ Which is the more accurate partner of truth: grace or spirit? What do they both mean?
When I was 19, I joined a missions organization which was heavily charismatic. They emphasized the works of the Holy Spirit and were always pursuing mystical experiences, miracles, and the like. In other words, they were big on the ‘spirit,’ but often lighter on the ‘truth.’
A few years later, I attended Moody Bible Institute, a school known for its academic rigor and its high view of Scripture. After arriving, I soon learned that they were the opposite of the missions organization — in this spectrum, anyway. They perpetually sought truth in God’s Word, while sometimes downplaying the mystical elements of God’s spiritual nature.
They were focused on ‘truth,’ sometimes at the cost of the ‘spirit.’
Jesus says in John 4, though, that His true worshippers will somehow attain the balance of truth and spirit. They will not neglect one in favor of the other, but will marry the two in a beautiful union that will flourish them as an individual, and likely benefit those around them.
But as mentioned above, this is not the only dichotomy where truth appears.
What about Grace?
We all know people who are so dogmatically obsessed with being accurate in their beliefs that they forgo love and grace. We also know others who are so gracious and loving that anything could be true and nothing really needs correction. Neither is a healthy way to live, nor does it reflect the heart of Jesus and what He wants for His followers.
He is after people who can balance truth and grace. People who do not sacrifice one in order to elevate the other. He doesn’t want judgmental religious pricks, nor does he want spineless, feel-good hippies. His kingdom is one where truth and grace can coexist in unity and aid the flourishing of humanity.
The following pages will strive to examine a number of things:
— How to identify the extreme options in any scenario
— How to openly identify each side’s strengths and weaknesses
— How to live in light of this awareness
— Some of the major dichotomies faced in the lives of all Christians, namely: finances and possessions, spiritual gifts, interacting with culture, legalism, politics, church, nature, and more.
Sound fun and easy?