29 Jan Avoiding Extremism
The immature and unstable tend to see and act in extremes. Granted, there are extreme truths. To see them and walk in them means you will be acting in an extreme way compared to others. However, those who cannot see anything but extremes are usually the most deceived of all. The path of life is almost always found between extremes.
The ditches on either side of the path of life are almost always legalism on one side and lawlessness on the other. Some will take virtually every truth to one of these extremes. Many who fall into one of these ditches will then overreact to it and end up falling into the ditch on the other side. The path of life is narrow. There are few who find it or manage to stay on it. A basic goal of this study is to stay on the path of life. At the same time, we know that if we think of ourselves more highly than we should and that we alone have the truth and cannot fall, we are in the most jeopardy of falling.
We are told in Galatians that we will reap what we sow. If we want to reap grace, we must sow it. If we want to receive mercy, we must sow mercy. In relation to this, let us resolve to show grace to those who may see things differently than we do, especially about the matters we are about to address. Let us also resolve to always be humbly open to correction. That does not mean we automatically change our position because some disagree with us, but let us remain open and check out their position to see if there is truth we need to receive. This is required if we are going to stay on the path of life.
Some of the worst divisions in the body of Christ are between those who agree on 99% but disagree on one thing and then divide over it. This is extremism—a root of deception. This root is often the result of immaturity, instability, or insecurity. Even so, I don’t consider myself wise enough to judge other people’s motives without clear evidence. If I had endured their life experiences, I might be in much worse shape than they are. Therefore, I resolve to sow grace and mercy whenever I can, while not compromising my own convictions without clear biblical evidence that I need to.
In Philippians 1:9-10, we have a basic truth required for discerning truth:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
We will not discern anything or anyone correctly without love. Love is the basis of “real knowledge,” and “all discernment.” More importantly than knowing someone’s life experiences, and judging from that, is having love for them. I may disagree with their doctrines or positions, but if I do not sincerely love them, I will not claim to understand why they believe as they do. Why is this important?
We are called to love our enemies. Giving others grace and mercy for believing the way they do, even while continuing to disagree with them, can help us love them. This is how we will come to a true understanding of them. “Understanding” comes from the term to “stand under” someone else’s position. We are called to make disciples of all nations, and we cannot disciple anyone we do not understand.