Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hanging in the Balance

Balance and the struggle for achieving it are universal in the world around us.

We hear about the “balance of nature,” in which small ecological changes are counter-balanced by other incremental changes. The “balance of power” applies to many areas, ranging from sports to politics to global stability and security. Businesses monitor balance sheets to determine profitability – or the lack of it.

Balance is critical to our human lives, in both the mundane and the magnificent. Learning to walk or ride a bicycles are lessons in the fine art of balance. We marvel at “death-defying feats” of balance on a high wire at a circus, or when one of the “flying Wallendas” takes a stroll high above Niagara Falls or from one skyscraper to another.

One of our daughters competed in gymnastics for eight years, and she excelled on the balance beam, performing jumps and flips and cartwheels on a board just under four inches wide, about four feet above the floor. Maybe that’s one reason she grew into a well-balanced young woman.

Followers of Christ spending too much time in
the "stained glass aquarium" of the sanctuary
have minimal impact as His ambassadors.
Balance is tenuous and deserves our attention. Perfect balance for an extended period of time is rare, and sometimes isn’t desirable. For instance, the act of breathing results from the ever-shifting concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, prompting us to alternately inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. 

Spiritually we confront a similar “balancing act.” Years ago I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks declare, “The only Christian I ever saw in perfect balance was one that was moving from one extreme to the other.” It seems we’re always on a spiritual pendulum ride in our quest to be “in the world but not of it,” as Jesus Christ referred to His followers in His so-called “high priestly prayer” on the evening preceding His crucifixion.

He prayed to the Father, “…they are still in the world…protect them by the power of your name…for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you will take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:6-19).

We live in a tangible, visible, temporary world but are called to keep foremost in our minds the world that is untouchable, unseen and eternal. That’s one reason the old hymn, “The Sweet By and By,” was so popular. It offered a reminder that no matter how attractive it is, this present life is passing. While we may enjoy it, we’re not to cling to it.

Being in the world without being of the world presents a constant struggle. Bible study, prayer and meditation contribute greatly to spiritual growth, but we can overdose even on such things, becoming as someone termed it, “so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good.”

Hebrews 10:25 exhorts, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another….” This can include attending worship services, Sunday school, small group meetings, even meeting individually with other followers of Jesus. At the same time, we’re reminded, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Ambassadors don’t spend their time in their native countries, but represent their nations in other lands. In a similar yet far more profound manner, we’re called to live in a world and society where biblical truth is largely shunned and often ridiculed. As Christ’s ambassadors, one of our jobs is to incarnate the truth of Christ wherever we go, seeking to show others the way of reconciliation.

And living in a material world, we confront the realities of bills and the allure of all manner of “stuff,” while God calls us to conduct lives of trust and generosity. “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell” (Proverbs 11:25-26).

The everyday journey of walking with Christ is indeed a balancing act, a delicate one. So next time you see me, don’t be surprised if my arms are outstretched while I teeter from one side to the other. Just trying to find my balance.

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