CAN WE BE BOTH BALANCED AND ZEALOUS?
Eric V. Snow, sermonette notes, 3-10-01
In the Western Humanities class I presently teach, I tell my students to memorize a famous statement by the philosopher Santayana, which concerns those who forget the past are condemned to fulfill/repeat it.
Let’s consider an error people made in the past, and how people today have failed to learn from it. The error of the Victorian middle class over 100 years ago: Zealously pursued sexual sin, but indifferent to racism. Problem described in Mr. Armstrong’s “Mystery of the Ages”: Victorians so uncomfortable in discussing or writing about sex that they ended up denying young couples the knowledge they needed to avoid obvious mistakes during their first wedding night. Yet the Victorians didn’t even INVENT the word “racism” until about 1865-70. Influenced partially by Darwin’s Origin of the Species and European white’s successful imperialism abroad (especially in Africa and Asia), thought whites better than other races.
What’s the situation today? The two have been neatly inversed: The Eastern Liberal Establishment is obsessed with racism, basically indifferent to sexual sin! We’ve gone from one ditch to the other: Sex is routinely joked about on TV and alluded to in music, but many aspects of race relations in America today simply can’t be discussed publicly without cries of racism or “racial insensitivity” filling the air. (I.e., anything negative about minority groups, especially how the difference in illegitimacy rates result in some groups committing more crime and being poorer than others).
Can we in the church learn from history? The comparison of the values of middle class Victorians to modern American liberals shows our society has gone from one ditch to the other, from one extreme to the other, in a mere 125 years, on the subjects of race and sex. Could we in the church be committing similar mistakes? As Passover approaches, we should consider this possibility.
This leads to a pair of questions worth pondering: Can we be zealous without being extreme? Can we be balanced without being Laodicean? (Repeat)
I say the answer is “Yes.”
S.P.S. We need to be both zealous and balanced when striving to obey God as Christians.
Rom. 10:2: Need knowledge to make sure we aren’t unbalanced or unwise in our zeal.
We must be wise enough to perceive when we’re in a “ditch” due to being extreme when dealing with certain “gray areas.” But we also have to be spiritually on guard against thinking being the “middle of the road” is automatically safe, since the majority, even in the church, could be wrong on some subject.
Balance on prophecy: Problem of HWA overemphasizing it, of “the gospel of prophecy,” Billy Graham’s criticism. One Split off group’s mistake of overemphasizing it, especially its human leader. Yet others, usually second-generation Christians, don’t give it much heed now or study it at all in apparent overreaction to “having heard it all before.” But if 27% or so of the Bible’s verses are prophetic in nature, shouldn’t we be willing to listen to sermons or read books on such topics roughly a quarter of the time? Or do we tune it out completely, despite we think we’re the generation that will see Jesus return? We of all generations in history have reasons to be experts on Revelation and Daniel then. In this situation, a relative overemphasis compared to what other generations needed to know isn’t unwise then, since we may have to live through what Revelation describes!
Sabbath-keeping example: Are we Pharisees or Laodicean liberals concerning specific aspects of Sabbath-keeping? The two ditches here are easy to see. Some may turn the day into a constant series of “donts” that inevitably alienate their children. Some may miss the “freedom” aspect of the Sabbath in the name of enforce the “rest” function. Others will end up excessively pursuing pleasurable activities on the Sabbath. For example, should we as adults play any kind of sports on the Sabbath? Should we watch any non-spiritual TV programs on the Sabbath, such as the news? Should we buy food or gasoline on the Sabbath when this could have been avoided by doing so during the day on Friday?
Childrearing example: Admit own lack of credentials, but worth hitting on since historically we in the church have lacked balance. Problem of overdoing corporal punishment in the 1960’s, early 1970’s in overreaction against the world’s Hippie counterculture, lack of discipline, etc. Then later in the church, we had those who overreacted against their parents’ overkills in this area, and didn’t want to spank their children ever at all. Can we ever learn from history?
Tricky balancing act: If too strict, risk children possibly rebelling, ala Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.” In your face rebellion problem, or may just slip off to college, and do what they want. If too permissive, then children will make bad decisions on their own when should have parental guidance.
Problem one man had who was perceived as letting his teenagers do too much, etc. Noticed critics were those without children or only with young ones. 38 Special song, “Hang on loosely”—in context about romantic relationships, not childrearing, but principle still applied.
Ask teens not to overreact against mistakes they think their parents may be making when live on own.
Now I’ve shown that we can go from one extreme to another, and lack balance, without clearing perceiving it. But is “the middle of the road” always safe? Or could you become “road kill” because of getting hit by spiritual “cars” coming both ways?
Sometimes it could be what others in the church consider “extreme” is the right position. WE MUST NOT LET LAODICEANISM MASQUERADE AS BALANCE AND MODERATION. It could be HWA, the consensus of the ministry, what was done at Ambassador College, the laymembers of the church as a whole, or even what the majority of us polled in the room think, is wrong, on some given subject. Picking the middle of the road on some subject could be a cover for compromising with sin.
Could also be that when one talks things over with that person, may find they aren’t so extreme after all. One reads their book, their tape, their video, their whatever, on some given subject, and start to change own position to be closer to theirs. May not go all the way, may still think they have a “leg” in the “ditch,” but start veering to their side of the road since think they’re 50% or 80% right, even if you don’t buy the whole “package.”
Also, if get to know person or people, may find out not so extreme. For example, I knew one older married woman who used to drive me to church. She once told me others perceived her as a “feminist” in the local church. Now, true, this woman is a mainly a choleric by personality. She also was intelligent, articulate, and educated. But I had heard her talk on these kinds of issues extensively during our periodic rides together, so I knew she was no feminist. Female vs. male dogs example, showdown between husband and administrator, “power talking” issue. I immediately told her, “Gloria Steinem would consider you a traitor to your sex.” But since others judging her in this way didn’t know her real views on gender roles, but had merely based their opinion on her personality, they were wrong. Could we be similarly misperceiving others we say are “extreme”?
So in conclusion, as Passover approaches, we should ask ourselves whether we’re extreme in our Christian practice in some “gray areas.” We should also ask whether we’ve been compromising with sin under the cover of balance and moderation, as the Laodicean church did. Finally, we should be wary of judging and criticizing others, our brothers and sisters in Christ, either as “extremists” or as “Laodicean slackers.”