NEITHER TO THE RIGHT NOR TO THE LEFT: IS SPIRITUAL BALANCE POSSIBLE?
6th April 2017
When the Israelites were marching through the desert, it was extremely important for them to stay on the right way, which God had been pointed to them through Moses. To deviate from the right path meant danger: wild animals, hunger and thirst, hostile attacks, etc. Just shortly before the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, God takes on this picture and exhorted the people of Israel and its leaders, in a figurative sense, to do everything in their power to always stay on the right path. He said to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7
It is quite clear what God means. He wants the people who belong to Him to follow what He said and not act as one thinks best, or sees fit.
What is right and what is left?
It is interesting to notice but both the right and the left seem to be regarded as being wrong. Only the path that runs between these two variations, seems to be the right way. In everyday parlance, we have already got used to the fact that the phrase “right and left” does not apply just for traffic but also for the way we think and act. Political parties are classified in this way and even in Christian circles it has become customary to talk about the left view Christians (liberal) and right view Christians (conservative). Besides the fact that is very difficult if not almost impossible to classify people and their thinking, the usage of the phrase brings with itself the problem of my own position. Depending on where I stand myself, the other is either left or right of me.
Since it does not help much at all if I start crying, screaming or shouting with firm conviction: “Here with me is the center!”, my question is : Who can definitely identify and decide where is the center? How can we find that spiritual balance?
The typical oscillation
Frequently people are trying out of fear, to find ways to avoid an explicit answer to the question:” Where do you stand?” or “Who can decide where is the middle way?” So either you advocate the pluralistic view, which allows you to validate from the entire bandwidth of concepts and designs of truth, nearly all, as being truth. In doing so you are not forced to reveal your own position on the matter, because at the end of the day you are just one among many others who represent this view, at the same time you avoid a nasty dispute that would otherwise be inevitable and would have the potential to ruin your entire week and your friendship.
Another possibility is the typical pendulum movement in the opposite direction. For example: if I identified a certain concept of truth or a habit in my life as being a threat or a danger, then I will do everything I can to strengthen the opposition to it. With very simple knitted patterns of thinking, my point of view becomes the norm, the standard for everybody else. Wether it is the vegan food, the cup of tea or a certain hairstyle, what I identified as being right, would be levied with less or higher moral pressure as law for others; and if “the others” will not accept that, then what I have to do is to start out a separate group of like-minded peers.
After a while maybe I would realize that the whole energy for my existence comes from wrong sources:
1. From the dull repetition of my points of view
2. From the criticism of the people who refuse to disclose their position.
And all of this happens mostly as a reaction to what it takes to “stay in the picture” or trying to find out what is going on in the other ditch. Ultimately the devil couldn't care less in which ditch we land, because both sides, weather left or right belong to him. Only the middle way is right, everything else is misleading.
Questions for introspection
What to do now? What is the solution to this apparent dilemma? It would be presumptuous to claim there is a patent solution or an easy answer. But perhaps our answers to the following questions could provide some help in finding the path to the spiritual balance.
1.Is the Bible for me the only valid norm? Do I engage myself enough with it to gain the focus I need to approach difficult topics that are not explicitly covered in the Bible?
2. Do I have a clear position on the fundamental biblical truth, so I can classify the view of others from the biblical perspective and not according to my subjective opinions?
3. Am I in danger of excluding or rejecting people who tend to deviate slightly from my standpoint? Have I understood that true tolerance is neither indifference to the view of others nor a plea for pluralism but an internal struggle to understand the position of others?
4. Did I develop a differentiated thinking that keeps me away from the danger of believing that people with different views than mine are not on a lower spiritual level? Can I live with the fact that there are different levels of knowledge?
5. Am I able to discern between the psychological argument: “do not be so tight”, the political one:” we have to accept everything for the sake of peace” and the theological one: ”what is biblical and what is true?”
6. Am I willing to be corrected by God through His Word and in prayer even when I am convinced that I am absolutely right?
7. Have I decided to always treat others as God treats me, being kind, forgiving and reconciling? Am I able to distinguish between a person and that person’s belief, so that despite the contrary views I can still respond with love and respect?
8. Am I convinced that God is committed to the Advent movement and I am not entitled to point the finger at others in a judgemental way or to think that I could start out a “better church”?
9. Do I pray constantly so that God helps me neither to subtract anything from His word (the Sadducees left) nor to add something (the Pharisee right) but always to make an effort to find the balance?
If we will succeed to answer these questions positively then there would be more common focus for the Word of God and less verdicts on others. I trust that you also will try to aim neither for the left nor for the right, but for the way God is trying to bring us on…..the middle one, and I hope that once you got there you will encourage and invite others to join you on this great journey.