I’ve been thinking about balance lately – especially this balance between doctrine and practice. When we find out we’re wrong, there’s a desire to go in the other direction. That’s a good desire. We don’t want to keep being wrong. We want to get it right and run towards truth. We just have to be careful. Sometimes we go so far in the opposite direction that we’re no better off than when we started. We’re just wrong in a different way.
I see a lot of that when I look at Christians who have come out of difficult backgrounds. Those who have lived in the world and lived lawlessly are so intent on living a disciplined life for Christ that many are prone to legalism. Those who have lived in bondage to legalism are so excited about their life in Christ that they may completely do away with all boundaries. That doesn’t do us any good. We just swap places and neither of us are clinging to Christ Jesus.
I grew up in the second camp. There were rules about everything. There were rules about stuff that wasn’t even close to being wrong. My inclination is to leave all of that behind. I have to be careful. Getting rid of every trace of law isn’t right. While our salvation is not based on what we do, God has given us His word and His commands for a reason.
2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is given by God so that we can know right and wrong and how to live.
Paul says in Romans 15 and 1 Corinthians 10 that the things which are written are written for our understanding. God wants us to be warned against the consequences of sin. He wants us to have a hope in Him.
John says in his first epistle that the Word is written that we may know God. The first two chapters of 1 John are full of reasons that the Word is given. It is given that our joy may be full, that we might not sin, because we’re forgiven, so that we will know God, because you know God, because you are strong, because the Word is in you, because you have overcome the wicked one, so that you will not be deceived, and so that you will not have shame when He comes. And then comes chapter 5, verse 13: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. How precious that is!
Many of us who grew up in the church desire Christian freedom. We’re fed up with the harsh legalism that has forgotten grace. We’re ready to embrace our new freedom, but we need to be careful that we don’t go overboard. Loving God with every ounce of our being is important, but feelings do not dictate our faith. Feelings follow our faith. We look to the Word. We see who God is. We see what He has done for us. That results in the joy we seek. We see what God desires for us. That results in our sanctification.
Having come from a very legalistic background, much of what I have to say speaks of grace. But please don’t misunderstand me. I am not looking to reject the Word of God and its importance for our lives. I am not looking to set aside the truth that comes from Jesus Christ. My desire is not to leave holiness behind. My desire is to see faith produce actions. My desire is to see us live as Jesus lived. My hope is that we will truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. My prayer is that the body of Christ would reach out to the world and point them to our Hope.
Sin is always wrong, but many in the world sin because they have been sinned against. Many sin because that’s all they know. They sin because they are sinners. They are in bondage. That does not excuse their sin, but God did not command us to be arrogant and judgmental.
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. You would hate to be kicked when you’re down. You would have to be looked down upon when you’re struggling. You would hate to be treated with contempt for living the only way you know how. So many times, that is what the church does. We speak “truth,” but we neglect grace and love. We use the Word of God to hurt and harm and tear people down.
Our Bible study talked about fundamentalism on Sunday. It’s been awhile since I’ve contemplated that term in a good light. It’s not the fundamentals of the faith that I take issue with. It’s the people behind the movement. I hear a lot of people with those same feelings. And I can’t help wondering if that’s how unbelievers feel about us. Fundamentalism might be all right. Christianity might be all right. But the fundamentalists and the Christians send us running.
I am incredibly blessed that the Lord brought kind, gracious believers into my life. So many people need to see Christians who live like their Christ. So many people need to be Christians who live like their Christ. We need to be those Christians.
Lord, please help us to love people and to point them to your hope. Father, help us to share your truth with grace and genuine love for those who are perishing. Let your love be seen in us so that the lost would be receptive to your offer of forgiveness instead of running from your messenger’s hatred.