TWO SINFUL EXTREMES:
With almost every aspect of the Christian life, I picture a number line. In one direction is one extreme and in the other direction is another extreme. In the power of the sinful flesh, all we can do is swing back and forth from one sinful tendency to another like a pendulum. We swing too far one way then too far the other way – and no matter which way we swing, we create dysfunction. It is VERY frustrating! Some examples:
Passive/Doormat <———-> Dominant/Control Freak
Too Quiet <———-> Too Talkative
Afraid/Worried <———-> Apathetic
Perfectionistic/Legalistic <———-> License to Sin/Carelessness
This is often why those who don’t know Christ get so offended when I describe being a godly wife. The only options available to us when we are operating in our own flesh and our own human wisdom are these sinful extremes. They can’t see any other way. If I am talking about not being controlling and not being disrespectful – the world thinks the only option is to be a silent slave with no value, no voice, and no power.
GOD’S WAYS ARE MUCH HIGHER THAN OUR WAYS:
God is all about a proper delicate balance and tension between contrasting qualities.
- He is Love but at the same time He is Holy and Just.
- He is full of grace, mercy, and forgiveness, but at the same time, He has wrath for sin.
- He is patient and long-suffering, but He also has righteous anger and He carries out judgment swiftly when He knows it is the right time.
- He is omnipotent and gentle.
- He is omnipresent but He is a gentleman and does not force us to let Him reign in our hearts.
- He is completely sovereign but He gives us free will and He does not override that.
We get a warped view of God when we focus on one attribute without understanding that all of His attributes are equally present all the time and that they exist in balance. Godliness is very similar – it is about proper balance in the power of God’s Spirit. It is all about knowing God and His love. It is about relationship with Him. When we “abide in Him” – He causes us to soar.
SOARING ABOVE THE SINFUL EXTREMES:
The way I picture it, when we come to Christ and allow Him to be LORD and yield control completely to Him each day and each moment as best we know how – He doesn’t call us to swing on the pendulum anymore, He empowers us to soar on wings like eagles above those sinful extremes in a beautiful balance of godly characteristics. Of course, it does take time – sanctification is a process where we learn to allow God to work in us more and more – it is very much like learning to walk. We fall a lot, especially at first – but we are never exempt from falling. If we are not abiding in Christ and His Spirit is not in control, we can fall at any time into sin.
The world thinks of “power” and “freedom” as the “strength to do whatever we want whenever we want in our sinful nature.”
In God’s economy “power and “freedom” are the “strength and ability to walk in obedience to God for His glory.”
So, instead of:
- passivity or dominance – we have the power to share our feelings, concerns, and ideas vulnerably and confidently but we don’t have to revert to doing nothing and we don’t have to try to steam roll people. God gives us the power to fly above the center of those two things in this sweet place of beauty and godly power.
- being too quiet or talking too much – God prompts us when to be quiet and when to wait and when and what to say at just the right time in just the right way.
being too wimpy or too harsh – God empowers us to be assertive and bold but with the power of His love motivating and compelling us to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.
- subservience or disrespect – God empowers us to first of all reverence Him above all else and to respect Him properly, then we are able to show proper respect for our husbands and others out of reverence for God and a desire to bless others without viewing ourselves as subhuman. We have godly humility and no pride – it is a healthy thing, not a destructive thing.
- having fear or apathy – we realize that God is sovereign and we rest in His sovereignty and we realize that He is in control so we don’t have to be afraid even if we must face our greatest fears. We trust Him with our fears. And we can love because we aren’t trying to protect ourselves. We have God’s Spirit’s power of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
- legalism/perfectionism or license to sin – we use our freedom in Christ to serve others in love. We know we don’t have to earn God’s favor through works. We are not under the Law of the Old Testament, but we are under Grace. We wouldn’t dare disrespect the Grace for which Christ died to share with us. We WANT to live holy lives out of gratitude for all Jesus has done for us. So we are no longer oppressed by legalism and trying to sanctify ourselves in our own strength and we are not involved in using the grace of Christ to trample the blood of Christ by saying, “let’s sin all we can so we can get more grace!” We want to please God and we have joy in living for Christ as His Spirit empowers us.
- idolatry of others or idolatry of self – We tear out everything we have put above Christ in our hearts and set Him firmly on the throne of our lives so that He is by far our greatest priority and concern. We love Him far above others. We care about His opinion and His will more than anything or anyone else.
- being enmeshed or being distant – We have the power to separate ourselves in a healthy way from others so that we are not trying to be responsible for their emotions or expecting them to be responsible for our happiness or our spiritual well-being but we don’t have to be cold and distant. We have the power to love with God’s love at just the right amount of distance/space.
- seeking self-protection or martyrdom/resentment – I don’t have to try to protect myself when I know God is protecting me. I don’t do stupid things on purpose. But if I know I am in God’s will, that is where I want to be. I don’t have to fear getting hurt in my relationships because I know God will be with me and will empower me to deal with whatever may come and that He will use all things ultimately for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29). I don’t have to give grudgingly or as a martyr or be filled with resentment because I am no longer loving others to get what I want from them. I am loving others because God is in me and He is love. I don’t need reciprocity from other people when I have God’s power to love. I can love unconditionally and seek to bless others, knowing God is pleased and He will reward me.
- trusting others too much or shutting down – I know that people will fail me. They are all sinners. I don’t expect people to be perfect. I don’t expect them to be Jesus to me. My primary trust is in God, not people. I don’t have to shut down from others because God’s Spirit empowers me to love. I don’t have to keep my distance out of fear. I can guard my heart wisely – but I don’t have to shut down because of discouragement, depression, hatred, or bitterness. I am free in Christ to love however He calls me to love.
people pleasing or selfishness – People pleasing says that I must have the approval of others. Selfishness says that I only need my own approval. When I live for Christ, I don’t need the approval of other people or my own approval, my goal is only to have the approval of God. So I can live without man’s approval if I know I am walking in obedience to God by the power of the Holy Spirit working in me. I die to my own will and seek God’s will. It is ALL about Him.