A balanced person lives like this ……
… or so we might think
In general, society thinks better of people who seem to be living a more balanced lifestyle. Therefore, the unspoken goal is a well-rounded approach to life (family, work, sport, social etc). That is, no extremes of anything but a more middle-of-the-road sense of balance, to everything. Consequently, working too hard, training excessively for sport or making extraordinary amounts of money are not necessarily a good thing. Rather, those are more ‘unbalanced’ and carry negative connotations
How does this relate to living the Christian life?
Be that as it may, to an even greater extent, society applies this mentality to being a Christian. Maybe the most imposed expectation on Christians is that they live a balanced kind of life as depicted above. Lest they get ‘carried away’ with church stuff, ‘take it too far’
Of course, the world doesn’t have a clue because Christianity isn’t just adding another component into the mix that we need to keep in balance. On the contrary, it’s not a matter of trying to balance (some say juggle) church things with everything else at all
When we become Christians, quite often our secular family or friends worry we will lose our sense of balance. Especially if we take Jesus too seriously – going to church, making tithes and offerings. These are all foreign concepts – over the top, excessive. Above all that, going to Bible study and prayer meetings as well – definitely unhinged!
A new perspective
However, accepting Christ brings us a completely renewed life, lifestyle and renewed way of thinking that totally transforms us. Above all, it doesn’t just add on to family, work, sport, social etc and compete with them. But provides a completely new, meaningful foundation for all of these. So much so that living the way God intended provides the thread that ties them all together in a much healthier (and productive) way
Also, sadly, within the Body (the church) words like ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘extremist’ indicate that some brethren think others are ‘out of balance’. ‘Taking some part of Christian living too seriously’. But is that even possible? Can we take anything of the Kingdom too far? I do mean, thing OF the Kingdom. History holds many examples of extreme things done in the name of the Kingdom but actually not of the Kingdom
Some parts of the Body have criticised other parts for ‘taking things too far’ or not far enough. Sometimes simply because they try to impose their sense of balance on church life
Hence, denominations exist because of an emphasis on one or more particular perspective/s of the Christian Life. Anglicans, Baptists, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Reformists, Salvation Army, charismatics within the non-pentecostals and the list goes on
As an aside …
….. different parts of the Body working together in the community must show tolerance. In other words, they must take a ‘middle-of-the-road’ (balanced) approach that creates unity. Vitally, love and kindness must be forefront instead of differences in doctrine. Fear and or pride should never manifest in criticism in the Body of Christ
Let me explain. For example, I served overseas with a non-denominational mission. The mission’s charter included “we work within the mainstream of undisputed truth”. It was OK to be a pre or post millennialists or an enthusiastic Pentecostal or very liturgical or whatever, personally. But, ‘on the field’, working with the team, one couldn’t allow points of difference to affect the team in any way. The differences must not overshadow the basic undisputed tenets of the Gospel
That’s definitely correct in such circumstances and worked really well in that mission
However, is that what I should aim for in my personal walk with the Lord? Should I be balanced in my Kingdom living, or even try to be?
Is God balanced the way the world thinks of balance?
There are many ‘extreme’ statements in the Scriptures.
[Just a reminder from the home page, if you don’t have a Bible there’s plenty online. Here’s a copy of the New International Version In fact there are many different versions/translations available in the dropdown search on that site]
- “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and BE HOLY, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44 & 45 & 19:2) and this ‘command’ is repeated many times: Lev 20:7 & 20:26 & 21:6; 1Cor 1:2; Eph 1:4; Heb 12:14, 1Pe 1:15, and then 1Pe 1:16 quotes Leviticus
- “BE PERFECT, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat 5:48)
- “DO NOT WORRY about your life, what you will eat, or drink ….. [or] wear” (Matt 6: 25)
- “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mat 12:30) [there is nowhere in between!]
- “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire” (Mt 18:8)
- “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Mt 18:9)
- “Have faith in God,” ….. I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”
(Mark 11:22-24) [after Jesus cursed a fig tree & it withered]
These are just a small sample but from a large variety of life circumstances. I can’t help but ask …. was the Lord serious when He said these things? Clearly, the calls to Be Holy and Be Perfect are just that, calls to Be Holy and Perfect. Consequently, non-negotiable. In fact, difficult to rationalise away. They can’t be in balance with anything else. They are absolutes
Not worrying about food, drink and clothes may be contentious for some parts of the Body. We must act ‘responsibly’. This thinking is very common. The contention – do we hold to the saying “God helps those who help themselves” or, do we take Jesus at His Word, literally?
As for cutting off a hand or foot or gouging out an eye, there is an argument that this was not literal. However, the strength of Jesus’ language indicates the seriousness of the matter, especially with the call to Holiness and Perfection. Either way, is being balanced about these matters possible?
The whole ‘Faith in God and believing what you say will happen’ segment is definitely a contentious matter, in possibly a majority of the Body of Christ. Did Jesus mean it or is there ‘rational’ wriggle room to not hold onto this as is?
God is a God of extremes being balanced
We know that all of God’s characteristics are complete and built on His total Holiness. His wrath is a righteous, pure wrath not half-hearted. His Justice is complete and flawless. He is extremely Just. His Righteousness is extreme (pure), as is His Mercy, His Love etc etc. Everything about God is awesome. He is in fact the God of extremes – extreme Justice, extreme Holiness, ultimate Power, fully Sovereign, extreme wrath, yet extremely Loving. Consequently, God is a perfect balance of opposite extremes. That is, not a ‘middle-of-the-road’ approach but ………
The extremes of the Lord affect changes in us as we relate to Him
For example, as depicted in the diagram below, we see, on the left side a set of daunting extremes. God’s Sovereign Holiness prevents us from approaching Him, leaving us prostrate, condemned to His Wrath because of His perfect Justice. On the opposite side, a set of wonderful extremes administered through Jesus. The incredible joy of knowing He wants to be our Heavenly Father (Abba). And that he Loves us as His children. This inspires us to praise Him. [singing, making music, rejoicing, shouting – see the earlier post what’s the Bible mean praise?]
God being a balance of extremes might therefore look like this ….
Black – God’s characteristics in balance, a mind hurting concept for us humans
Blue – in Christ our lives are MOVED from the left through His Glorious Redemption to the right
Please Note! This ‘diagram’ is an incredibly oversimplified picture of God’s characteristics. The intention is purely to give us some idea of God’s awesomeness when in fact we are fully incapable of understanding. Existing as a mix of extreme, pure characteristics induces a sense of ‘opposing’ characteristics in our finite minds. However, there is no intention to imply in any shape or form any contradictions within Creator God. Secondly, His Sovereignty is supreme over all His characteristics. It is depicted opposite Father because of the connotations for us. The nature of a loving Father ‘contrasts’ the nature of an ultimate ruler, being balanced. Nothing more, nothing less
Far and near …
The ‘formal speak’ describing the contrast between the Sovereign and Father extremes of God (as depicted in the diag. above) makes the contrast much more, well, extreme. Theologians have discussed the ‘transcendence and immanence’ of God. No it doesn’t hurt! It simply refers to the fact that God exists apart from, is far above and beyond, surpassing and excelling, greatly superior to any thing or any being (transcendent). While at the same time the immanence of God means we can enjoy an intimate friendship with God as Job described it (Job 29:4) …. see a later post “God’s Relationship with man” which will show how much His Love impels Him to pursue us for that relationship. [We should pause here and remember, there is a time when this age will end. Jesus will return and gather all who have accepted God’s invitation and deal with those who choose to reject His offer and remain in the realms of sin]
Only Creator God could hold such extremes in perfect balance because He is Holy, He is Perfect and He is Love. He does nothing out of self-interest, malice or any other sin-tainted emotion. Recall His character from Suffering part I. In Him, there is no darkness at all (1John 1:5)
For the disciples …
… the resurrection of Jesus transformed their lives dramatically. They changed extremes as opposed to balanced them. They moved from fear to faith, from alarm to action and from despair to hope. Consequently, from hiding they moved out boldly into world mission. Similarly, the power of the Blood of Jesus and active faith in His Word brings extreme changes to our lives but hardly in any sense of balance!
Finally, how extreme should we be?
It depends on how much we are willing to become more like Jesus. How much are we willing to walk with God (Micah 6:8)? How much are we willing to trust Him even against the flow of worldly thinking?
Matthew recorded Jesus teaching many lessons that are extreme by worldly standards and possibly some Christians might also think so. In the gospel of Matthew alone we see Jesus taught:-
- the beatitudes (5:3-12)
- let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds (5:16)
- anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement (5:22)
- settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court (5:25)
- if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out (5:29)
- if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off (5:30)
- do not swear by anything …. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’ (5:34-37)
- turn the other cheek (5:39)
- …. let him have your cloak as well (5:40)
- go the extra mile (5:42)
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44)
- after all these lessons He closes out the section with :-
- “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48)
- then Matthew recorded more what some might consider ‘hard to swallow’ teachings:-
- “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (6:25)
- Jesus sent the 12 out with these instructions .. “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff” (10:9-10)
- “for me or against me” (12:30)
More Extreme …
Mark, Luke and John record many examples of Jesus’ extreme teaching none the least in John 14:12-14 “I tell you the truth, anyONE who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. HE will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” [capitalisation emphasis mine]
God’s economy working undetected by the world provides amazingly for our needs whilst we do something with Him. That’s why Jesus confidently said “DO NOT WORRY about your life, what you will eat or drink ….. or wear” in Matthew 6:25 but spend more energy on the priority – seeking the Kingdom of God. He didn’t say walk away from work, He just said don’t Worry. Put work in its rightful place (less important than the Kingdom) but still done to the best of your ability, as if unto God
Because Paul urges us to follow him as he followed the example of Christ (1 Cor 11:1) [the Greek word for follow in this context is “imitate”] and again in Ephesians 5 verse 1 Paul calls us to “Be imitators of God”. We get an idea of what our life should look like.
[Imitating God, even trying to imitate God, would hardly be seen as being balanced]
Also, John says ….…. “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6)
[emphasis mine, again, hardly thought of as acting responsibly let alone balanced!]
Reflection on being balanced
Paul tied it all together … “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, [rationalism, intellectualism] which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col 2:6-10)
[emphasis & insert mine]
Does it make sense to explicitly trust Jesus for our every need?
To the world – of course not!
To the Kingdom – why on earth wouldn’t we?
Paul hits the nail right on the head when he wrote to the church in Rome and included the advice/warning …. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2)
Jesus has the last say …
Not surprisingly, Jesus warns us not to try to keep Him in balance (with anything). Not be ‘middle-of-the-road’ toward Him. He said, we should know that we are for him and live that way OR we should be against Him and live that way. He called it being Hot or Cold, saved or damned, extreme. According to the Encyclopaedic World Dictionary the antonym of extreme is lukewarm. Jesus said … “So, because you are lukewarm —neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16). Lukewarm of course is the pretenders who aren’t really for Him but not really against Him (indecisively in the middle in their hearts and minds). He said the lukewarm make him sick!
In similar fashion, Christ had spoken like this before. In Luke 11:23 Jesus taught that “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters”
So, what’s with being balanced in the Kingdom?
Lay down the world’s concept of living a balanced life and single-mindedly dare to live the extremes in Christ and walk with God
… just sayin’
- The Holy Bible, New International Version®. Pradis CD-ROM Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, © 1973, 1978, 1984.
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