In reading a book of quotes compiled by Roy Zuk, I came across this gem:
“Martin Luther once said that God’s truth is like a drunkard trying to ride a horse: prop him up on the one side, and he topples over on the other. Balance is indeed hard to achieve in applying God’s truth no less than understanding it. We are always in danger of pushing some biblical principle to an extreme.”
This is brilliant! When we become too literalist or too hard-line and we push either biblical principal or church tradition to any extreme we lose sight of how very tricky balancing the truth of God really is. Extremism will always cause us to fall over on that horse. Balance is hard to find when we are carrying too much baggage on one shoulder or another. Sadly, this sort of stubborn and drunken approach to applying truth can have devastating consequences. We have all seen those ‘Christians’ who demonstrate with signs of hatred toward gays and lesbians at their funerals. We all witnessed the thousand who gave away their livelihoods in preparation for the end times which were to take place last May — er…was it October….no wait….It was both!
One of the more bizarre examples of this behavior of late is exemplified in the behavior of the pastor of The Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Middletown, PA. In an attempt to ‘make the point’ that Christians in Muslim lands are persecuted, the Pastor of ‘Glad Tidings’ had members of the youth group kidnapped by gunpoint. Their heads were bagged, hands bound and they were thrown into a van and delivered to their pastor’s house where they were led to believe that he was being beaten. But it gets worse – This abduction was carried out by a member of the church who is a Police Officer who was off duty who was happy to take part in the ‘teaching exercise.’ The pastor insists that the only mistake in this was not getting parental consent. He insists that these experiences are valuable and will continue. Did someone say something about falling off a horse? You can see more about this story by clicking here
As a faith leader and pastor of a church this stuff frustrates the “H-E- double hockey sticks” out of me. How are we to be taken seriously in this world when some ‘Christians’ behave this way? What is God’s truth to these people? It is certainly different from God’s truth as I see it. How do these folks see Jesus? Certainly they do not see the Jesus who has embraced me and loves me. The God of Love that I am glad to call Lord of my life is tolerant and nonviolent. The Jesus that I follow respects children and young people and would denounce such abuse of aggressive behavior by these ‘people of faith.’
What might happen if we looked for balance by asking ourselves what we wanted/needed when we were at our worst? I mean, there must be times when we knew that we have strayed mightily from the path that God wishes for us to tread. When those times have happened in our lives what brought us back? I am venturing a guess that it was not a brow beating, angry, aggressive, judgemental Christian. I suspect it was God’s love, perhaps expressed through the tender, loving, kind and gentle approach of a servant who lived the humility of Jesus. There are people in my life that I admire so much because they seem to manage that balance so well and are not falling all over that horse. Perhaps you have some of those people in your life too. Lent is as good a time as any to tell someone who exudes the charismatic kindness of Jesus that you appreciate him/her. It is also a good time to ask ourselves how we are doing with holding truth in the tender balance that it deserves. How are we doing at using the truth that God has given us in a balanced and loving way so that we are not like a ‘drunkard on a horse?’
Sounds like he fell off the horse and was kicked in the head!
Sounds more like he was part of the horse’s anatomy…. somewhere in the hind region?
I wish your understanding of extremes could be understood by politicians – they need to learn the lesson of riding God’s creature the horse to know how important it is to stay upright and true. Thanks for this week’s thought filled words.
Kevin as usual, you voice what many feel beautifully. An acquaintance of mine, Gail Barker, talks about balance somewhat differently. Balancing things is difficult (try to balance a yard stick across your hand and you realize how difficult it is to balance).
But carrying your values, ideas and beliefs in a bucket is easier, you just choose what you want to carry until the bucket is full. What you carry makes all the difference. Love, caring and tolerance are light. Judgement and extremism are heavy. Learning when to empty the bucket, when your values and beliefs don’t fit any more, that takes courage and wisdom.