Staying Balanced in an Extreme World

Have you noticed how polarized our world has become?

We seem to be drawing battle lines…retreating behind walls…lobbing grenades at our enemies.

The middle ground is eroding.

The extremes are becoming the norm.

And social media algorithms and market-based, crisis-driven, anger-producing news shows push us toward the edges.

How is a Christian to stay balanced in an extreme world?

I remember reading a book by Charles Ryrie in Bible college, Balancing the Christian Life. It was a good reminder that spiritual health, just like physical health, is often a matter of staying balanced.

There are dangers both to the left and to the right.

So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. (Deuteronomy 28:14; also Joshua 1:7; 2 Kings 22:2)

Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)

There are extremes that have to be avoided from either side.

Therefore, the Bible often provides “tension points” on both sides to help us stay balanced.

For instance, justice and mercy.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

To do justice and to love mercy at the same time requires balance. And, as Micah 6:8 reminds us, this kind of balance only comes with walking humbly with our God.

We naturally tend to extremes. It is humility before God, and a willingness to see our own weaknesses and sins, that helps us walk the fine line of wisdom.

Truth and love.

Conviction and compassion.

Zeal and knowledge.

Boldness and gentleness.

Even in theology, you realize that God has established “tension points” that keep us balanced.

God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Jesus’ divinity and humanity.

Worship in spirit and in truth.

And even negatively, we are to avoid legalism on one extreme (the Galatians) and licentiousness on the other (the Corinthians).

Thus, when it comes to our present situation, you are most balanced when you feel tension from both sides.

I am a citizen of the United States…thus I participate in politics.

But I am also a citizen of the kingdom of God…thus I keep everything in perspective.

I am always pulled from two sides.

I am “in the world” but not “of the world.”

I am involved in the culture but I am also separate from the culture.

I am to seek better laws for the good of society but I also realize that only the gospel can change hearts and truly transform society.

As D.A. Carson notes in his book, Christ and Culture Revisited:

We await the return of Jesus Christ, the arrival of the new heaven and the new earth, the dawning of the resurrection, the glory of perfection, the beauty of holiness. Until that day, we are people in tension. On the one hand, we belong to the broader culture in which we find ourselves; on the other, we belong to the culture of the consummated kingdom of God, which has dawned among us. Our true city is the new Jerusalem, even while we still belong to Paris or Budapest or New York.

So what does all this mean?

If we are going to stay balanced, then we need the body of Christ. That is God’s plan to keep us balanced. The person of mercy needs the person of discernment. The bold prophet needs the quiet servant. The visionary needs the administrator. The activist needs the pacifist. The go-getter needs the stop-and-waiter. The zealot needs the tax collector.

And vice-versa.

Unfortunately, we tend to pull away from those who are different than us…who disagree with us…who see things differently than us…and gravitate to those who affirm what we already think.

We get lost in our echo chambers.

And we become more extreme…less balanced…less healthy…and more detrimental to the body of Christ.

Here is one thing that you can bank on: If the church of Jesus Christ is fighting amongst itself, then the effectiveness of our witness to the world is already lost. If we are angrily divided and arguing over Trump…over Biden…over coronavirus…over racial issues…over social policies…over politics in general…then the reality of the hope, peace, grace, truth, and salvation of Jesus Christ is lost in the noise.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:20-23)

We need one another in the body of Christ.

We need to be challenged.

We need to be corrected.

We need to be willing to listen and to seek understanding.

We need to be endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

These are the “tension points” that keep us balanced.

Just like the springs of a trampoline. It is the consistent pull from different angles that enables the trampoline to function and to spring us higher in our relationship with Christ.

Of course, just like a trampoline, we also need “anchor points.”

There are certain things that we cannot compromise. There are certain truths that define us as believers that cannot be discarded or politely ignored.

  • Jesus is God incarnate.
  • Jesus died on the cross as the substitutionary atonement for our sin.
  • Jesus physically rose again from the dead.
  • Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
  • God’s Word is absolute truth.
  • Believers are called to live in holiness.
  • The world desperately needs the gospel.
  • We are to live for Christ and proclaim His truth regardless of the consequences.
  • Jesus Christ is coming back to judge the living and the dead and to reign on this earth.
  • Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Anchor points are our foundation…our priority…our north star.

Anchor points are our biblical absolutes…worth fighting for.

Tension points, on the other hand, are our convictions, preferences, and perspectives.

They are important…they are real…they are worth a good discussion…but they are not worth losing our relationships over.

We get out of balance when we confuse the two.

Perhaps the classic Christian statement is worth repeating:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

May God plant us so deeply in His Word…humble us so thoroughly by His sovereignty…transform us so completely by His Spirit…that we exude the character of Christ in all that we think, say, and do.

The One who perfectly balanced justice and mercy, grace and truth, boldness and gentleness, humanity and deity, is the only One who can keep us balanced today.

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