The Christian life is about balance, not about extremism.
Christians are to be kind, (Eph 4:32) and generous, (Prov 11:25), but we are not to give our pearls to swine, (Matt 7:6). We are to be discerning, (1 John 4:1), but not judgemental, (Matt 7:1); work hard, (Prov 21:5), but not love money, (1 Tim 6:10); keep the peace, (Eph 4:3), but shake the dust off our feet when leaving certain situations, (Mark 6:11); forgive seventy times seven times, (Matt 18:22), but keep our distance from those who can influence us to do wrong, (Prov 22:24); do everything as if unto the Lord, (Col 3:23), but be a shrewd manager of all of it, Luke 16:1-9). How about this one: we are not to gaze at wine when it is red, (Prov 23:31), but should have a little wine for stomach trouble, (1 Tim 5:23), and when life is a little too heavy, (Prov 31:6)? That’s just naming a few.
Some call it contradictions; I call it bringing balance.
One such balance issue has been at the forefront of my mind and heart recently. A concern I’ve had for a few years now is that in an area where I should have felt extreme anger, I didn’t. Instead, I’ve only felt calm, and until I can feel that appropriate anger, I know I will not be as whole as I’d like to be.
I recently read a book in which the main character was a mirror for me. I couldn’t put the book down, as dark as the story was. I wanted to see the her come to her senses, because if that happened to her, then maybe it could happen to me. I wanted to come to my senses, but didn’t know how to get there.
The book made me realize that I hadn’t been angry the way I should have been because I had done what I assumed the Christian thing to do was, and looked only for whatever good I could find in the situation and in the person, instead of facing the reality of what had happened: I had been done a horrible thing by a horrible person. I had to acknowledge that, and it’s been very difficult to do.
Difficult, because the Jesus way is to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to forgive and keep forgiving; but the Jesus way is also about the heart of a person. I felt trapped, not able to see that there was the matter of balance to consider, and that I needed to figure out what that looked like in my situation.
This has been a gut-wrenching this process for me; to dig deep into my memories, past the banalities I’ve used to describe what happened, past all the good descriptive words and phrases I’ve used over the years when talking about it, so I can now get down into the dirt and horror that was inflicted on me. I’ve not wanted to face those things because they’re too hard. I’ve just wanted to move on, aware that those things happened, but not wanting them to influence my present and my future.
But the truth is, they continue to influence me everyday, especially in the area of trusting people.
We live in a natural, physical world, with people who hurt and wound us; and we do the same to others. To be healed in those areas in our lives requires that we name where we need healing. They have to be acknowledged.
I’ve known this truth, but that didn’t keep me from spiritualizing my own pain. I forgave without facing the horror of what I needed to forgive. As a result, the unresolved trauma repeatedly made itself visible in many aspects of my life, and always when I least expected it.
The façade of spiritualizing
It was a façade of forgiveness; a Band-aid over a heart wound that underneath is festering and ugly. The day will come when all the spiritualizing will have to give way to facing the hurt; only then will both true forgiveness and healing come. The things that happen in the physical world have to be acknowledged so the supernatural action of forgiveness can take place.
The longer a person is a Christian, the easier it becomes for them to spiritualize the things they go through. It is simple to slip into this as we learn about spiritual warfare, and that there is so much more to the world we live in than meets the eye. If balance isn’t a conscious goal, the Christian can easily tend to extreme beliefs. Even the idea of balance, though, is feared by the Christian who sees the world and people in black and white, as sheep or goats, us or them. Balance, many believe, is to be feared and avoided, because it can lead to being lukewarm and not fervent enough about the faith.
This battle must have been raging inside me at some level, making me spiritualize a situation that happened repeatedly in my life. “Where is my anger?”, I’ve repeatedly asked myself. The verse: “In your anger do not sin and don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”, (Eph 4:26), was real to me; so I put off facing my reality, and instead focused forward, stuffing the horror down into a place where I didn’t have to look at it.
Why do I think that I am above getting angry at injustice? That I can spiritualize it away, saying, “I forgive”, without acknowledging what and who, I am forgiving?
Jesus demonstrated how not to spiritualize some things that happen in the physical world when He was not only angry at the money changers for selling in the temple, but also expressed it. In His anger, He made a whip out of cords, overturned their tables, and threw them out, (John 2:13-16).
Jesus did not spiritualize the presence of the money changers in the temple; instead, He did something about it. What He did was violent, loud, spontaneous, and it got His point out there – and then He moved on. Since Jesus, (the One whose example we follow and in whose image we were created), got angry and expressed His anger in such a way that everyone knew it, why do I think that I am above getting angry at injustice? That I can spiritualize it away, saying, “I forgive”, without acknowledging what and who, I am forgiving?
Moving away from spiritualizing everything that happens to us takes conscious effort. For the Christian to live with balance means that the only extremism we are to aim for is to love God fully, and to love our neighbor as ourselves; everything we do should fall within the boundaries set by those commands.
Figuring out how to live the Christian life in this world, but not of it, (John 15:19), is most definitely a balancing act that is worth the effort. It is why we read the Bible for ourselves, and depend on the Holy Spirit to help us through every situation, because He won’t lie or lead us astray. The healthy balance we crave might be hit and miss sometimes, but as long as we keep trying, it is not elusive.
Copyright © Debbie Mendoza August 2021