Walking the Tightrope

Over the past week or so, I keep coming across the principle of the tightrope. Sermons I've heard, books I'm reading, class lectures seem to keep bringing up this issue. It's almost universally applicable.

Aristotle taught that the way to find the ethical choice was between two unethical extremes. Generosity and prudence in finances falls between the extremes of selfish hoarding and lavish spending. Courage in battle falls between cowardice that refuses to get out of the foxhole and reckless abandon that charges senselessly to sure death. Aristotle called it the doctrine of the mean.

The same principle shows up everywhere in religion. Christians must walk the tightrope between legalism and license; between speaking the uncompromised truth and not being a stumbling block with the way we express ourselves. Christians must find the balance between being insubordinate to church leaders and following them off a cliff.

Its amazing how prone we are as people to navigate toward an extreme on any particular issue. Ecclesiastes 7:18 says, "It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes."

What does this look like in a church? I think it means popular movements and leaders are noted and evaluated, taking the good we can learn from them while leaving the bad. It means preaching doctrine deep enough to dive into but not so deep our people drown. It means being involved in social issues without forgetting its first responsibility, the propagation of the Gospel. It means we love people enough to forgive them, and we love them enough to exercise church discipline when needed. Examples could be multiplied.

May God grant us the grace to avoid the extremes, lest we fall off one side or the other to the detriment of our witness to the world.
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