What is meant when we talk about “balanced Christianity?” A dictionary definition of “balanced” would include: “an instrument for weighing, esp. one that opposes equal weights, as in two matched shallow pans hanging from either end of a lever supported exactly in the middle; scales…a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equality in amount, weight, value, or importance, as between two things or the parts of a thing” (Webster’s New World Dictionary; Second College Edition; 1970; p. 105-106). The dictionary definition of Christianity includes: “…the state of being a Christian” (ibid.).
When I think of a balance or being balanced, I automatically think of the scales used to represent justice. They are intended to demonstrate equilibrium or things being equal on both sides of the lever in the middle. The questions arise, “What are we trying to balance? What is the standard in being balanced?”
Unfortunately, there are many different ideas as to what is meant by “balanced” when Christianity is the subject of discussion. Some hold to the idea that for a Christian to be balanced he/she must have equal parts of good and evil. Are we really trying to imply that if we have just as much good in our lives as we do evil, then we are balanced? I certainly hope not, but the way some Christians are living it appears that is exactly what they mean. The apostle Paul stated, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Paul says Christians are not to continue living sinful lives. A change for the better is expected to come as a result of putting on Christ in baptism.
Another view could mean we are to have just as much love as we have hatred in our lives and thereby we are balanced. Again, I hope not, but look at some Christians and you will see that seems to be their thinking concerning balanced Christianity. Jesus states, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (Matt. 6:43-45a). Jesus doesn’t indicate we are to have equal amounts of love and hate in our lives. Instead, love is to be descriptive of our lives, not hate.
Finally, what do you get when you have equal amounts of light and darkness? You end up with twilight. This results in problems of trying to distinguish things clearly. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). Therefore, Christians are to be light, not darkness to those around us. Thus, equal parts of love and hate, good and evil, light and dark are not what we are meaning by balanced Christianity.
We must use the right standard in order to determine if we as Christians are living balanced lives. The standard must be God’s word, the truth of the gospel. Those scales must have the Bible on one side and our lives on the other. If we are living balanced Christian lives, then we are living according to the word of God, living like our Lord lived. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). It is the word of God which is to direct every facet our lives. Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
God’s inspired word shows us several different groups or individuals who were unbalanced in living their lives. In Genesis 3 we read of God’s first test for mankind in the garden of Eden. This test proved Adam and Eve were unbalanced. Eve decided it was better to follow the direction of the serpent and eat the forbidden fruit, rather than faithfully adhere to God’s instructions (Gen. 3:1-5). Paul informs Timothy that Eve was deceived, thoroughly beguiled by the serpent (1 Tim. 2:14). He also states Adam was not deceived, which means Adam deliberately disobeyed God’s law. As a result of Adam and Eve’s unbalanced lives they were put out of the garden and never allowed to enter it’s premises again lest they also eat of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24).
Cain lived an unbalanced life believing he could worship God by substituting his harvest of the ground for the sacrifices God specified (Gen. 4:3-5). We know this to be true because the Hebrews writer states, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4). The apostle Paul informs us and defines for us what faith is when he states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God even explained to Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7). To be balanced Cain would have obeyed God’s instructions concerning offering acceptable sacrifices to God.
Think about the Pharisees. They were Jews who believed it was acceptable to add to God’s word and still be balanced. Our Lord said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). Even though they proclaimed the need for strict adherence to the law of God, they insisted on adding and binding the commandments of men. Such is not balanced.
We might also consider the Sadducees as those who were unbalanced because of their attitude toward God’s word. They believed it was acceptable to subtract portions of the Bible without any negative consequences. Luke wrote, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit…” (Acts 23:8). Jesus instructed the disciples to be leery of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).
The previous examples are not of unbalanced Christians, but there are many examples of such in the New Testament. Paul admonished the Corinthian brethren to learn from the mistakes of the children of Israel while wandering in the wilderness to keep themselves from making the same mistakes (1 Cor. 10). He warned the Galatian brethren of following a perverted gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), which thereby would certainly make them unbalanced. Also, our Lord through the apostle John demonstrated that the Laodicean brethren were unbalanced Christians by being neither cold nor hot (Rev. 3:14-22).
We are expected to compare every aspect our lives as Christians to God’s word in order to determine if we are living a balanced life. As husbands, wives, sons, daughters, preachers, elders, deacons, male and female members of the church, we must put ourselves on one side of the scales and God’s word on the other side. The likelihood is that we will need to make adjustments to our lives if we are to be balanced with God’s holy word.
I remember hearing a story when I was younger concerning a woman who lived during the Depression. She contracted with the local grocer to bring him butter in blocks weighing one pound each in exchange for other food products she needed for her household. One day she lost her one pound weight for measuring the butter. So, she decided to use the one pound of laundry detergent the grocer weighed out for her earlier in the day. She brought the butter to the store, as she always did, and the grocer weighed each of the blocks of butter as was his custom. However, this time he accused her of trying to cheat him because the blocks of butter didn’t weigh a pound. She exclaimed, “I don’t understand! I lost my one pound weight, so I decided to use the one pound of laundry detergent I bought from you this morning as my standard.” If the scales are out of balance or the weight is not exact, someone is going to be cheated.
Are we cheating God or are we living balanced Christian lives?
Keith is a graduate of the Florida School of Preaching in Lakeland, FL. He preaches for the Lord’s church in Mountain Grove, MO. He has been an instructor for the Online Academy of Biblical Studies (OABS) for the last five years. He and his wife, Cheryl, have 3 sons and 12 grandchildren.