In any sphere of life, taking an extreme position is always unsafe. Even if the intention is right and the cause is noble, we should never lose the balance. That’s why someone observed, ‘extremes are always in the gutter’! This principle is applicable in our spiritual life too.
While encouraging Joshua to lead the people of Israel after the death of Moses, the Lord exhorts him to be obedient to the law. But the clause is “do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left”. Joshua 1:7. Earlier Moses also warned Israelites in the same manner. "Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” Deut 5:32; 17:11.
In the gospel we see often the Lord rebuking the Pharisees for their unbalanced religion. They were so strict in keeping the law that they counted each grain and gave a tenth, yet neglected weightier matters like justice, mercy and faithfulness. They gave importance to the outside show but gave no care for the truth in side. The Lord Jesus called them hypocrites, fools and blind who strain out a gnat and swallow camel! Cf. Matthew 23: 15 – 25. Notice how firmly He pronounced woes against them, because of such lop-sided religion.
Certainly, obedience to God’s word is the basic responsibility of a child of God. That alone can bring divine blessings and subsequent success in our Christian life. Nevertheless, if we are not careful enough, chances are there that we take any one direction and end up in extreme ideologies.
Divine sovereignty vs Human responsibility
It is interesting to note that most of the Bible doctrines or commandments have two different aspects. For example, consider the doctrine of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The word of God states both the truths. To give importance to one and neglect the other will lead to much confusion, even wrong ideas. We have to consider both and take a balanced position. If something is not yet fully revealed to us, humbly accept that fact, instead assuming something else based on our own logic or preference.
Faith vs Works
Similarly, the matter of faith and works. Faith alone is the basis for salvation, no doubt about. Eph 2:8. Yet the word of God also speaks about the area of works. Cf. James 2: 18 – 26. Though work is not necessary for our redemption, works must follow conversion experience. To emphasize one and neglect the other is again dangerous.
Law vs Grace
Another area where many stumble is law and grace. By the deeds of the law no one can be saved. We have been justified freely by His grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has delivered us from the bondage of law and we are no more under the law. Rom 3: 20, 24; Gal 3: 10, 13 etc. Does it mean we are free to live a lawless life?
There are some who think that God graciously forgives any sin so no need to bother about sin! This kind of teaching encourages a believer to take sin lightly and its abuse of grace. Paul himself emphatically says, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” Rom 6:15. We need to understand both law and grace in the light of the complete revelation and take both in its proper balance.
Love vs Hatred
Consider another biblical commandment. “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” Psalm 97:10a. Naturally we prefer love but forget the other aspect! Hatred in itself is not bad. There is a kind of ‘hatred’ necessary in our life. In fact the result of true love is dislike for that which is opposite to what we love and cherish. If we love health, we abhor uncleanness. The Lord Jesus appreciated the church at Ephesus for they hated what Christ hated. Reve 2: 6.
On the contrary if we talk more on love but allowing all kinds of wrong doing is not a balanced Christian life. It is one-sided spirituality probably going slowly towards some form of extremism. Commitment to truth and love should go together. Cf. Eph 4:15
There are countless other topics in the Bible where we can notice these dual aspects. Fear of God & love for God, tradition & the word of God, zeal & knowledge, judgement & discernment, investment in heaven & earth, worry & thoughtfulness etc are often misunderstood by many. Failure to comprehend and follow them in its balance will bring much damage to our own spiritual life as well as of others.
So many sincere believers have taken such extreme way of life and ended up in trouble, ultimately affecting the purposes of God.
How to maintain balance in spiritual life?
In the physical realm, those who lose balance are babes, the sick, weak and the intoxicated ones etc. In other words normal and healthy people do know how to keep balance. Any imbalance could be a sign of a problem. It must be true in spiritual life also. Three things can be considered as essential to keep stability in spiritual life.
1. Grow in the Lord. Ephesians 4:14
Apostle Paul exhorts Ephesian Christians to grow, not to remain spiritual babes so that they will not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. Immaturity makes one weak and vulnerable. Such ones are not stable and steady. That’s why we need to grow as the days go by. Cf. Heb 13:9; 2Pet 3:17, 18. Maturity in our spiritual life is essential to lead a balanced life.
2. Look straight. Proverb 4: 25, 27.
To walk or even drive straight we need to look ahead. Looking here and there will disturb our stable and balanced movement. Paul refers to his one goal in life. Phil 3:13. A divided vision and heart is harmful for a Christian. Cf. Matt 6: 24; Hos 10:2; Luke 9:6
3. Cleave to the Lord. Joshua 23:8
In one of the farewell messages of Joshua, he exhorts the people of Israel to cleave to the Lord so that they may continue to progress in Canaan. We cannot neglect the truth that we ourselves are not capable to go straight or maintain balance. We are always vulnerable and weak. We need the help and strength of the Lord to understand spiritual truth and live in His ways.
Such a realization should encourage us to stay close to the Lord and be strong and steadfast in spiritual life. Cf. Gala 5: 1; 1Cori 15: 58.
Prophet Ezekiel refers to the heavenly creatures in ch. 1. One of the features of their movements is “each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.” Ezekiel 1:12. That’s exactly what the Lord wants from us; as the Spirit leads us, not to turn left or right.
As we witness lot of confusion and contradictory teachings among the born again Christians today, let us pay attention to the Lord’s command to Joshua, “do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left”. Appreciate the reality that most major bible truth got two aspects and holding on to just one could be risky. Seek the help of the Spirit of God to understand the whole counsel of God and follow a balanced Christian life. Be steadfast and immovable by the grace of God, in favour with God and man. Luke 2:52
Related topic:- Balanced Christian Life
PULLING ON BOTH OARS
An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat for transporting passengers. One day a passenger noticed that the good old man had carved on one oar the word "Faith" and on the other oar the word "Works." Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of these oars. The old man, being a well-balanced Christian and glad for the opportunity to testify said, "I will show you."
Then he dropped one oar and plied the other called Works, and they just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and began to ply the oar called Faith, and the little boat just went around in circles again - this time the other way around, but still in a circle.
After this demonstration the old man picked up Faith and Works, and plying both oars together, sped swiftly over the water, explaining to his inquiring passenger. "You see, that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and faith without works is dead also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing."