Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Balance?


An often used and misused word among Christians in our society is the word -- "balance".

We tend to use it when God's Word doesn't line up with the message that we want to accept or communicate to others. When we come across a particularly troubling statement in Scripture we quickly look for another to 'counteract' that which we find unpalatable.  Often times we treat the severity of God's Word and commands in certain parts of scripture as if they were acid that needs to be neutralized by another scripture which appears to be on the other end of the spectrum of what we deem to be acceptable. When we treat God's Word in such a manner we end up with a truly watered down understanding of Scripture that is of benefit to no one.
 
Quite often we treat the Old Testament in such a way. Many Christians are so uncomfortable with the Old Testament that any time they come across a particularly tough passage they immediately look for the New Testament "alternative".  They find the God of the Old Testament to be too acidic and believe that the New Testament brings "balance" to the equation.  The problem, of course, with this way of thinking is that it is unscriptural. Christ did not come to counteract what God had done throughout the history of the Old Testament. He came to fulfill it! He did not come to bring "balance".  He was the natural outflow of what God had been doing all along. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same. There was no evolution in the thinking of God from Genesis 1 to Matthew 1. There was no Old Testament character flaw that the Almighty had to neutralize through the sacrifice of His son. The sooner that we stop looking for "balance" in Scripture the better off we will be.

This phenomenon of searching for "balance" is never more obvious than when we examine the Biblical (notice: I did not say Old Testament) way that God deals with the wicked. In Psalm 139 and numerous other places throughout scripture the very act of praying that God would slay the wicked goes hand in hand with a song of worship. It is as if the Psalmist is rooting for the Almighty in His cosmic battle against evil. Yet, when we read passages such as Psalm 139 or Psalm 5:4-5 which states, "You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong;" we immediately rush to the defense of God by running to the New Testament cupboard in search for an antidote in order to bring "balance" to the situation. After all, we don't want God to be seen as someone that hates people. The only problem with this, of course, is that the Bible says that He indeed does hate the wicked. Further compounding the problem is that churches that "hate the wicked" are praised for doing so in the New Testament! The Church at Ephesus received the following praise from the Lord Himself, "You have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitians, which I also hate" (Revelation 2:6). What makes us most uncomfortable about this passage in Revelation 2:6 is that the people are named. There is no doubt that when the small congregation at Ephesus received this Word from God that they knew exactly which people in the community that the Lord was talking about!

More than likely you are crying out for "balance" after reading the above paragraph and have the antidote in your hand to the 'acidic' and, what you feel to be, 'destructive' nature of a gospel that would proclaim hatred toward anyone. You proudly hold up the vial of Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." You rejoice in that you have found the "balance" in Scripture. Have you? Does Matthew 5 tell you to be in love with God's enemies or yours?  Is it not possible that in our search for "balance" that we undermine what God is trying to teach us. I certainly don't want to be rooting for God's enemies. I want God's enemies to be defeated. Whether or not God wants who I perceive to be my enemies to be defeated or not is another story. The Psalmist in Psalm 139 seems to realize this and immediately after praying that God would slay the wicked turns to an examination of his own heart to make sure that he is not among them!

This article is a call for the Church to stop searching for "balance" and to instead be in search of "fulfillment" in Scripture. Christ did not come to bring "balance" or to "do away with" the Old Testament , not in the very least! He came as a natural outgrowth of it. After all, He was the seed that was promised from the very beginning! The love of God does not balance out the wrath of God any more than His death balances out my sin. If the death of Christ were to be placed on a balance with my sin the scales would not be in balance! The value of His death far outweighs my sin! I can never repay Him! An eternity offering praise will not be enough!

Does God loving the world so much that He gave His only Son bring "balance" to Him "hating the wicked".  By no means! If it did then the wicked would dwell in His presence whether they repented of their sin or not. Nor can we say, as we often do, "God loves the sin, but hates the sinner." The truth of the matter is that He hates both sin and the unrepentant sinner and sees no difference between the two. Sin will never dwell in His presence. In the New Testament deaths of Ananias and Sapphira it was not their sin that God killed; it was Ananias and Sapphira. If the Bible were wanting us to find "balance" between the yin and the yang or "the force" and "the dark side" then we would arrive at the conclusion that Ananias and Sapphira made heaven. After all, God's love would have been equal to His judgment and they would have made it without a debt to pay.

When we come across passages that are tough to swallow we must avoid looking for an antidote. Instead we must take the medicine and realize that the Heavenly Father means what His Word says. Failure to do otherwise will neutralize the power of the gospel to make a difference in our fallen world.  His love does not sit on the opposite end of the scale from His wrath. Our sin sets on the opposite end! His wrath does not neutralize His love -- it amplifies it! His love does not neutralize His wrath -- it justifies it! God help your church to avoid the pitfalls of playing a balancing act with your Word and may we always weigh it with our sin placed on the opposite end of the scale.

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