Thursday, 21 June 2012

Is Balance Biblical?

Seems to me it's very British to be pro-balance. We like to take the middle ground, whether in politics or theology or in whatever area of life you look at. We Brits do not like extremism. We don't like to talk things up too much. Our football team usually does well but not brilliantly. Somehow we are now in the Euro finals without having played an outstanding game. How did that happen? It's all part of the British malaise.

In contrast the Bible tends to put down two extremes and let us try to work out how to live. For instance Paul tells us to work and rest in one breath:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Php 2:12-13

How can you work out your own salvation while trusting that is God who works in us? There is something of a conundrum there.

Even more striking are some of the 'hard sayings' (as FF Bruce called them) of Jesus:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. Luk 14:26

How can it be right to hate your family? It seems against all cultural good sense even now, and at that time and in that culture it must have been even more shocking. Here's another one:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Mat 5:43-45a

Now this is just hard to do. It is also against all common sense, but we know that Jesus himself practised it, and passed it onto those who came after him.

So balance may not be as biblical as we might think. A more important value is zeal:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Rom 12:11

How can we keep our zeal in these lackadasical, apathetic, post-modern times when each of us keeps our beliefs as privately as possible for fear of offending others (the biggest crime out there)? The answer is not to be afraid to confront wrong, but do so quietly and confident of the Lord's approval of our actions. We also need to know that God is in charge, and we are, with the rest of humankind, answerable to Him. It is not our job to judge. God is just, and he will decide all things in the future. He is also patient with us, and allows us to stray from Him at times so that it will be our love for Him (and a sense of His love for us) that draws us back. That is why we see so many problems in the world. It is not that God is far off, but that He loves to woo us rather than hit us over the head with the truth. May we have the grace to mirror this in our behaviour to others!

For further reading: FF Bruce 'The Hard Sayings of Jesus'