Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Great Balance

The more I grow and farther I come in my journey with God, the more I find that Christianity isn't quite as "radical" as many lead us to believe. Not as "extreme".

Now, there are many thing to be radical about - we should be first in love, adamant about protecting life, never backing down when it comes to telling the world about the reason for our greatest gift, and so on. Great stuff to be extreme about.

But I find that many things in Christianity require balance more than one-sided zeal. Things where to over-focus on the one extreme is every bit as bad as to go full out for the other.

For one, the great faith/works "paradox. Paul stated, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law," and "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Rom. 5:1, Gal. 3:11) But didn't James also say, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone"? Mwahaha, the evil Bible critics laugh.

It's two sides of the same coin. Grab your pole - it's time to learn how to balance.

My favorite analogy is that of laziness. Is laziness a thought process, or an action? One might argue that it's the thought process - wishing to shirk work. But really, would it mean anything to be lazy on the inside and industrious on the outside? It's an irreconcilable oxymoron. Don't jump to the other side, however, and say laziness is merely an action. One who is diligent on the inside would only be slack on the outside if something hindered him from working. So then, it's both. But one has a larger and prior part. The inner character comes first, then causes the outward manifestation.

Faith and works are the same way. Does faith without works save? No - it would mean nothing to have faith on the inside, and nothing on the outside. "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James. 2:18) So is it works that save? No, for "all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." (Isa. 64:6) So we see it's both, then. But one has a larger and prior part. The faith comes, and brings salvation, which then causes works.

We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

Another thing is how we relate to sin. Sin is horrible - no doubt about it. We should shy away from it whenever possible. But we're not called to just shun evil doing - we're to embrace righteousness. Now this is a more subjective question, but - which is better?

Jesus never sanctioned sin - spoke against it almost non-stop, really. But the people he cracked down on most were not the "greatest" sinners - it was those who's piety was born out of the outrageous idea that one could be righteous in and of oneself. Either extreme is dangerous.

My personal view - embracing righteousness. We are told we should be "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith", not looking back at the path trying to guide our steps by measuring from our mistakes. If you focus on not doing wrong, you'll find yourself depressed with your failings and ashamed of your progress, or filled with false pride and setting yourself up for a fall. Sin is serious - don't get me wrong - but we were not saved to measure our steps to their opposition to sin's path. If you shift your focus only slightly - to where you try to align your steps to Christ's leading instead of doing the opposite of sin, you'll find yourself heading in the same direction you were shooting for, but with an increasingly faith-filled and experienced heart.

"If you love me, keep my commandments." One admonition. Two approaches. To first love, or to first obey. I suggest love - for with that, the other will follow.

My personal opinion. :)

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