|Blake’s depiction of Jacob’s ladder, I have a print of this painting mounted on the wall above the spot where I fell to my knees in my disaster and cried out to Jesus (two years ago)|
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works
In life there is often a balance we must seek after, finding good measures of various attitudes and actions to find a happy medium in life. The struggle to find this difficult balance can best be summed in the shortened version of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is a difficult balance for anyone to maintain in this world. I’ve struggled greatly with this dilemma myself. How much do I rest in God and his plan? Conversely, how much do I take action and do the necessary foot work?
These two questions will determine the level of peace I have in my heart. If I step too far into the side of resting faith in God, my actions and activism begin to drop off and eventually that damages my faith. If I step too far into the realm of action and attempting change I run the risk of losing my peace in the hopelessness of changing situations outside my control.
What is the healthy balance?
We’re asking the question of balance. This is fundamental, but how little it seems to be discussed. What can I change and what can’t I change? How does peace of mind and calling to action play into the equation of daily life?
This is a very difficult one for me. Because I’m very sensitive to this kind of thing.
When I read a news story about Monsanto pouring millions of dollars into ads to prevent GMO labeling, it just slays me. It slays me because I know it’s so wrong, on so many levels. When I read about the 20+ lobbyists in the Obama administration, I just want to lay down in a corner and collapse internally. It’s terrible. And most people just don’t know, and they don’t care, and they don’t want to know. When I see Christian organizations praising what a great president George W. Bush was, I feel sick to my stomach. I recall the Iraq war, the Patriot act, the financial industry bailout, and the constant corruption bubbling out of that administration and my spirit just cries out to the Lord: “How can it be? How can it be this lost?”
It breaks my heart you see. The United States, the Christian nation, having been so plundered inside and out, so corrupted in politics, in banking, in media, and in business. It slays me every time.
Even further, the slanted news reporting the mainstream media news, Fox, CNN, all the rest. It’s scary, how the truth never comes out. How lies become truth! Even further, to the hollywood industry, how stars like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus are used to turn the kids who idolize them into drug addicted, sex crazy immoral monsters. Monsters that will later be wielded against the former Christian majority. I can hardly handle it day by day.
And still, even further, before my very eyes, where I work at the shelter, watching people stuck in the same old patterns, same old addictions, they leave, they come back, they get sober, they relapse, it’s enough to drive a man completely insane with the existential horror of it all. This is a very ugly world! And I haven’t even mentioned war, disease, genocide, or world hunger yet. Wild!
What is peace? How can we have it? I’m known to go too far into action, and not far enough into resting trust. On the other end of the spectrum are those who take too little action in response to their faith in God. The Bible says such faith is useless (James 2:26).
There are many dualities in this world, and in ourselves, and even in our God:
- Jesus came full of grace and truth.
- God the Father is mercifully forgiving, and a just judge.
- The Holy Spirit both comforts us and convicts us.
- There is a time to love people and show mercy, and another time to explain the truth and give justice.
What can I change? If I can change it, then I will champion it as my cause.
What can’t I change? If I can’t change it, then I must accept it as it is.
John 16:33 says I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
And as it says in Mark 6:31 “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”
There is a time to act, and a time to rest.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”
Do you recall what Jesus said? An often debated passage. He said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
Salt and light. Preservation and hope. Another interesting statement by Jesus is in Matthew 24:6 when he says “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
I find myself challenged by the teachings of Jesus over and over again. I’m to be a man of good conduct, loving those around me. But what of the corruption? The Bible says to expose the deeds of evil (Ephesians 5:11). So God likes whistle-blowers! Yet when I see the evil, the wars and rumors of war, do not be surprised. These things must happen. And also recall that the end must come, as described in the book of Revelation. So I should just let evil things happen and trust that it’s part of God’s plan? What if Europe and the United States had taken that attitude in 1939 when Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan decided they wanted to conquer the world? We’d be living under a Nazi government today. And it could’ve easily looked that way to Christians in the 1930s. Hitler would appear to be the anti-Christ, and the time had come for the end. But that wasn’t the case. So it’s difficult to understand the balance between action (James 3:13) and resting faith (Psalm 62:5).
Even more challenging are the words of Paul in Romans when he writes regarding the convening authorities being set up for your good, and to obey them (Romans 13:1-7). That is one of the most challenging statements in the Bible to me. Almost every authority figure in my life, since I was very young has not been out to protect me for my own good, but out to harm me for their own desires. Paul himself suffered greatly at the hands of the convening authorities. He would’ve known clearly in his own mind that they are not set up for the good of any Christian, but the good of the rich to the plundering of the poor. But by that interpretation, the American Revolution was wrong? That can’t be the case, can it? Were the British convening authorities working for the good of the colonists? They weren’t. And the colonists rebelled, successfully.
I don’t want to float too far from the topic of balance in faith and action, but it’s an interesting question. The point is there is a balance in scripture. Some might jump to the conclusion that there are outright contradictions in scripture, but that is not the case. The instructions and principles in scripture are multidimensional, and must be interpreted in the sense of looking at a 3-dimensional image, one side at a time. While mercy and judgement may seem to be contradiction, they are not. They are vitally linked. Multifaceted. Much like love and justice. Everybody loves love. At the same time, everybody loves justice. They are both good things, but they are quite different. Everyone wants mercy for themselves, and judgment for those that hurt them. It’s all about balancing the dualities in scripture.
God, within his divine character has the perfect amount of mercy and the perfect amount of judgement. He applies them in perfect amounts to fit every situation. The unrepentant villain receives judgement, the sinner who comes to the cross receives mercy. It’s all contingent on our actions.
Bearing that in mind, how can we choose resting faith, and also choose action?
James 3:18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
We must sow peace. For you gen z kids, “sowing” is when you plant a seed in the ground. That’s where most food comes from. Dirt. We plant our good deeds in the dirt, and they grow over time into a harvest of righteousness, bringing peace to our hearts. Blessed are the peacemakers.
Peace in the storms of life. Who could hope for such a rare thing? Most people I see today look half crazy. Running through life, hurrying along from this to that. Seems crazy. Like I woke up in a nightmare or something. The further I get from the world and it’s values, the more I’m disturbed by what it does. Have you felt the same thing? I certainly have. It’s come to the point that I find it generally disturbing to just go about my days. It’s all so antithetical to what God would want a society to look like. I feel so powerless against it. The media is so powerful. The companies, the advertisers, the sex industry, all so powerful. It sucks. I wish I could flip a switch and make it all ok. But God is letting this thing play out. He’s letting it get real ugly before Jesus returns. Why? I’m not sure really. I wish it was over today. I wish the kingdom would come. I’m ready, my faith in Jesus is here and I know with that faith, I am clean before my maker.
Life is a balancing act. In the past I’ve lived by the misguided motto “All things to excess.” Some people live there lives that way and never find out there is another way. I’ve found out. I’ve gotta unplug myself from the world, while still remaining in the world, offering the way out to those who could want it. There are so few that seem to. Yet there are many. The remainder of an unbalanced equation. With God all things are possible. When the world drives me nuts, I need to step back and realize that God is in charge. Some things I can change, most of it, I can’t change. So then I will accept them as they are today, as I am today, and rest in the knowledge that I live in the extended grace of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.