So many people today–myself included!–proclaim the importance of finding balance in all areas of life, from work/rest to diet to finances to marriage to parenting to exercise etc. etc.
Many Christians–myself included!–have unwittingly allowed this idol of “balance” to creep into our friendship with Jesus and His mission to us, from prayer to church attendance to Bible-reading to small group participation etc. etc.
And yet there are many areas of life where we DON’T want balance–we strive to be fanatical about:
1. Living in a safe neighborhood with low crime (“Honey, there’s only a 1/1,000 chance little Jimmy will get shot today–it’s perfectly safe!”);
2. Faithfulness in marriage (try calming your wife down by saying that you’ve only cheated on her a few times in ten years of marriage–see how much encouragement that gets ya!);
3. Having clean water to drink (would you be satisfied with only a few drops of deadly poison per eight ounces of tap water in your home?);
4. Getting your full pay check each week (“My employer would love me to work for free but I’m supposed to get paid “x”…so I decided to have balance and split the difference: I only want to get paid half!”);
5. Receiving all the food you pay for at a restaurant (“I only want a small french fry…but please charge me for a large one!”);
6. Having continuous/reliable electricity, heat, air conditioning supplies (“The electricity works 5/7 days each week–it’s great!”);
7. Showing up at work each day (“My boss is cool–she says my employment is ‘at will’: I will come in whenever I feel like it, for balance’s sake!”);
8. Not having mold growing throughout our homes;
9. Loving others instead of hating/mistreating them;
10. Brushing our teeth twice per day;
11. Breathing oxygen (“I’ve been breathing my whole doggone life–I’m gonna take a little break this weekend for once”);
12. Helping our kids get the best education so they can get into the best college so they can get the best job so they can yada yada yada…
13. Making sure air traffic controllers are CONSTANTLY monitoring flight paths so that our plane doesn’t crash;
14. Etc. etc. etc.
So why do we Christians strive for balance in our daily friendship with Jesus (i.e. with religious vs. non-spiritual activities)–giving Jesus only a certain size piece of the pie of our time?
Why do we sacrifice devotion in our marriage with Christ at the altar of balance/staying in the lines/the status quo/living like “everyone else”?
Why are we so scared of being legalists/Pharisees that we run from faithful obedience to Christ when He directly states that the way we show that we love Him is by obeying His commands?
“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me'” (John 14:23-24 NIV).
1. We often aren’t concerned with missing church for trivial matters (“I attended 40 times last year–what more do you want!?”);
2. We often aren’t worried that we don’t read Scripture every day (though heaven forbid if anything causes us to miss a physical workout or our favorite shows on t.v.);
3. We often aren’t troubled that we rarely pray for longer than a minute or two and that many of us get irritated if group prayers go on “too long”;
4. We often aren’t frustrated that we, at best, try to fit church programs/service projects/Bible studies etc. into our plans/activities instead of the other way around (at worst we simply don’t participate at all);
5. We often aren’t grieved that at best we are happy giving only 10% of our income to the local church and other Holy Spirit-filled ministries;
6. We often aren’t broken over the fact that much (or even some) of the movies/tv programs/music we choose to experience break the heart of God and spiritually fatten us for the race He has marked out for us;
7. We are content that we are going to heaven and so we often forget that we will still have to give an account of our earthly lives to Jesus (regarding faithfulness/fruitfulness–not regarding salvation)–if we get our act together each year in preparation for April 15th and the IRS, maybe we should put as much energy towards getting our act together for our eventual audit with Christ.
Please understand me: I’m not saying we need to do MORE for God so that God will love us more; I’m not saying we need to do more for God so that we can get into heaven.
But there are levels of faithfulness to Christ that produce different amounts of fruitfulness for Christ; as farmers try to get the most crop out of every square inch of their fields, shouldn’t we too try (in partnership with the Holy Spirit) each day to get the most faithfulness out of the short time we have on earth? My actions cannot earn me heaven, but my actions are a thank-You note to Jesus for giving me heaven…and I want to put as much time/effort/creativity as possible into my thank-You note to Him. I don’t want to hand Him a sloppy/haphazard/rushed card as I enter the gates of His Kingdom.
Maybe we don’t realize that the “balance” we seek in our lives crowds out the best that Jesus offers us with a whole lot of good that isn’t worthy of our limited time on earth to share Christ with others.
Maybe “good” acts (i.e. those that are not inherently sinful) are just as bad as sinful actions if the good acts keep us from doing the “best” acts that Jesus has prepared us for (it was wrong for Jonah to go to Tarshish not because Tarshish was inherently a sinful location but because God sent Jonah specifically to Ninevah to complete a specific task).
Maybe we need to be like the earliest followers of Jesus in the book of Acts, a book of the Bible filled with people who were fanatical about telling others in words about Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness (and not being scared of angering others in the process) and living out their faith in Christ with actions that backed up the checks written with their lips.
Maybe “easing up” in our obedience to Jesus isn’t the key; maybe there is a God-way to become fanatically faithful to Him without becoming legalistic/self-righteous, without sliding into the false belief that it is our faithful actions that allow us to enter heaven. With God all things are possible.
The followers of Jesus in the book of Acts were able to do be one-dimensionally obedient to Christ (I’m not sure they would have had time for t.v. and other forms of modern recreation) while still remaining humble, while still relying on His grace, while still treating non-believers with genuine love.
Simply put, maybe we should strive for less balance in our efforts to have a balanced life with Jesus.