Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Should You Strive for a Balanced Christianity?
Let me illustrate the point with an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon which I print below. I’m nearing the conclusion of “The Heroic Homemaker,” a 7-part series of expository sermons dealing with the poem of Proverbs 31:10-31. And as I came to verse 26 I took a few moments to show how the heroic homemaker’s life revealed not a balance of divergent (even competing) values but rather a unified, complete and thorough integration of godly virtues. Here’s the sermon excerpt:
Verse 26 “She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (NASB)
This verse is connected to the previous one in which the poet described the excellent wife’s adornment as her spiritual strength and dignity. In other words, it was her godly character that shone through everything she did. Now he continues the same theme, letting us know that when the excellent wife spoke, it too was a reflection of her inner spirituality. Her true heart for God, her inner beauty and integrity were revealed in the way she lived…including the way she spoke.
Wisdom and kindness are mixed together in her. That’s true spirituality. That’s evidence that the Holy Spirit is empowering someone, that their lives are marked by the combination of godly virtues: wisdom and kindness, grace and truth, mercy and justice. Indeed, these virtues, these characteristics of God must all be present or none of them are!
Christians often suggest that these various characteristics are like counter-weights that need to be finely balanced against one another if you want to live right. In other words, you take wisdom and put it on this side of the scales and then you counter it with the weight of kindness on the other side so that you come up with a spiritual balance. They do the same with grace and truth, mercy and justice, love and holiness, and so on.
But that’s wrong…sadly and critically wrong. True spirituality does not consist in balancing these virtues. For crying out loud, they are not in opposition to one another! Grace isn’t the opposite of truth. Kindness is not a contradiction of holiness. The law of God is not an inversion of the love of God.
God is not divided in Himself. He is not “well-balanced.” Indeed, God is complete. He is love and truth and righteousness and kindness and grace and holiness and…you get the idea.
These characteristics of God are all together. 100%. Continual. Co-existing. And as the Christian lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, all of these virtues are alive in him. 100%. Continual. Co-existing.
We do not balance one against the other. We do not encounter situations in which we need to focus on kindness instead of holiness or where we need to tender justice with mercy or where we divide the church up into teams where the "truth guys" go out to do certain jobs while the "love guys" go out to do others.
Verse 26 isn’t implying that the heroic homemaker sometimes spoke wisely whereas, in other situations, she spoke kindly. No, her speech was wise and kind. Like the rest of her life, it was a whole thing. Spiritual. Infused with the complimentary characteristics of who God is.
Walking in the Spirit is a unified walk. It integrates fully the fruit of the Spirit – all of them. And all at the same time. It's not from 9 – 10:30, peace emphasis; 10:30 – noon, concentrate on love; noon – 2, let patience be foremost; 2 – 3:30, go for goodness; and so on.
Remember how we’ve emphasized that the New Testament teaches that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is all these things. Fruit – singular. Not fruits. The single fruit of the Spirit is all of those wonderful things. Once again, let me repeat it. True spirituality is all of the virtues operating. 100%. Continual. Co-existing.
So get away from thinking of spirituality as something that can be measured with scales. The fruit of the Spirit does not consist of isolated virtues that serve in counter-weights to other virtues. Remember, that whole balance thing comes from Greek philosophy, not Christianity.
True spirituality is a wholistic thing. It is walking in the Spirit, empowered by all of His graces and demonstrating all of His blessings. We are complete in Christ – not divided, not full of competing values. When we operate in Christ, we act in wisdom and kindness (both, at the same time) and we reveal love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering and so on (all of them, all at the same time).
This isn’t merely a matter of semantics. This is a very important matter. And many Christians have a lot of problems in their lives and ministries because of misunderstandings in this area. They are forever living in the tension of competing forces: “How much should love be involved here as compared to righteousness?” “When should I act according to truth and when should I act in mercy?”
No. God is not divided – ever. Nor is the person who walks according to His Word, dependent on the Holy Spirit. We are complete in Christ; liberated to live with all of the fruit of the Spirit enriching our life and blessing the lives of others. So leave the balance business to gymnasts, engineers and accountants. You commit to walk in the Spirit and experience the integration of His virtues in you. 100%. Continual. Co-existing."