|Volume 21 Number 10 October 2019||
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have built bigger houses to shelter smaller families. We spend vast sums of money to have more conveniences, but we have less time for family and friends. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgment and huge debt to pay for our education. We have more experts, more problems and still fewer solutions to our problems. We have more medical technology but less wellness and healthcare. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but do not have a better life. We’ve added years to life but less living to our years. We’ve been to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things but not better things.
We’ve tried to clean up the air but allow movies and TV to pollute our souls. We’ve conquered the atom but have not curbed our prejudice and bigotry. We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush to the point where life is simply passing us by. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less with our fellow man.
These are the times of fast foods and bad digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes and more divorce, fancier houses and more broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer us up, to quiet our nerves and perhaps to end our lives. It is a time when there are multiple items in the showroom window while there is little or nothing of value in the stockroom.
When will we realize that what this nation and all peoples of the world really need is God? In the astounding, dumbfounding and vain comparisons listed above, we fail to recognize and refuse to return to the Giver of all things that we could possibly ever need: love, devotion, fellowship, courtesy, courage, understanding and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
When we return to God and let Him reign in our lives, we will be the most blessed creatures in the entire universe. Until we allow God on His throne to bless us more abundantly than we could ever believe possible, we will remain a fighting, bickering, deplorable mass known as a lost race and a festering sore that is a blemish and a blight on the universe itself. If we humble ourselves and call on God, then, He will hear our cry and heal our land. Then and only then will we again be the bright shining and lovely creatures that He made from the dust of the earth.
We often hear about being “balanced.” We are told, and rightfully so, that we need to eat a balanced diet. We don’t need to eat only one kind of food; we need to have a diet filled with all the major food groups to maintain good health. We also hear about “balanced” preaching, an important concept, too. As I thought about this concept recently, several things came to mind about balance.
First, in our physical diet when someone speaks of eating a balanced diet, he means we need to eat from every food group things that are good for us to eat. He does not mean to balance one’s diet between good foods and poison. In our preaching and teaching, we must have balance. It is important, however, to understand the true balance is to “teach the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20). It is not to equally preach truth and error. Around 30 years ago, I sat with some elders who were meeting with the head of a religious institution. They were asking about doctrinal issues and his institution. He responded by saying, “I have a stack of letters on one side of my desk that feel one way on that, and another stack on the other side of my desk that feel the other way on that.” That is really all he said. I wish I had pushed it more and asked him if that meant that he looked at whichever stack was higher and made his doctrinal decision accordingly. Our preaching and teaching must not be guided by popularity but by truth.
Secondly, however, it is very possible to become those who lose balance in our preaching, teaching and writing. We sometimes call it “hobby-riding.” We can become so connected to one particular theme that we forget there is more to be preached and taught besides that one thing. One of the problems in the church is when preachers fixate on one topic, such as grace, and emphasize it to the exclusion of other important matters, such as obedience. That can be turned around; we can emphasize obedience to the point that we forget the significance of the grace of God. It is not either or, but it is both. We do need to examine the “goodness and severity” of God. Spiritually, we need the balanced diet of truth, and if we preach or teach, our students need the same. We need to avoid those “hobbyhorses” upon which we can so easily climb.
Thirdly, changing gears slightly, we need to balance kindness with a refusal to compromise truth. We need to know how to answer. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6). We need to know what to answer. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3 15). Way too often someone has been driven away from the truth, not by the truth itself, but by the attitude displayed by the purveyor of the truth. If someone rejects the Gospel message, that is something about which we cannot do anything, and we are not responsible for that. Yet, if someone is driven away by our attitudes or poorly thought out words, that is a different story.
Fourthly, Colossians 4 speaks of our dealing with those outside of Christ, but the same principle should apply within the body. Sometimes brethren make harsh and rude comments to and about each other when there is a disagreement on some matter. Let me note here, carefully, there is only one way to understand the Scriptures; we do not “understand” them differently. The Scriptures have a meaning from God. When we disagree, one of two possibilities exist: 1. One of us is wrong and the other right or 2. Both of us are wrong. In any case, God’s Word is right, period. It is certainly important to establish what God meant in what He said to us. In discussing various matters, we should never resort to personal attacks and name-calling. I do not believe it is an offense to Colossians 4 to say that speech with grace, seasoned with salt, needs to be used between brethren as well. Remember the attitude of Peter, even after Paul had been forced to rebuke him publicly for his “dissimulation” (Galatians 2). Later Peter called him “Our Beloved Brother Paul” (2 Peter 3:15). Paul had called him out “before them all,” yet their love and kindness toward one another was never shaken. “…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).