Balance is everything…and if you don’t believe me, drink a couple of large whiskies and go for a bike ride. So too with our understanding of truth, and especially biblical truth. Just as coins have two sides, so also do many aspects of our discipleship – and failing to take both sides into account will always lead us into error. A classic example of this is Jesus’ interaction with the unfortunate woman caught in adultery:
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:10-11)
Many believers just home in on the first part of what the Lord said to her, and end up down-playing sin – excusing, and even condoning, it. Emphasising one aspect of a biblical truth, whilst ignoring other aspects, is one of the ways carnal Christians justify being lax concerning their sin, and excuse the way in which they live in disobedience to whichever biblical teachings they don’t happen to like. Jesus did not just say, “I do not condemn you.” He added, “Go, and do not sin again.” He neither excused, nor condoned, the sin He was confronting, but offered grace and forgiveness so as to enable the woman in question to repent, and to renounce, and therefore cease, her prior sinful behaviour.
However, there are other believers who just home in on the ‘do not sin again bit’, missing out on grace and forgiveness, and being merely condemnatory. Though rightly representing the position that sin should be taken seriously, they do so with an attitude of graceless and judgemental harshness, thus misrepresenting the Lord’s character equally as do those who make Him out to be soft on sin.
It is always a question of balance. Birds fly on two wings, and trains run on two rails. If we want to truly soar with the Lord and not get derailed (mixed metaphors are always justifiable grammatically when alluding to trains…or Star Trek), then we must do all we can to maintain our balance, and to ensure that we are going by the comprehensive teaching of God’s Word, and not just picking and choosing the bits we like, whilst quietly ignoring the bits that don’t suit us.
For myself, I am seeking to live in as comprehensive obedience to scripture, and therefore to the Lord, as I know how, yet am constantly aware that I am doing so amid much failure. I am therefore thankful beyond words for the Lord’s endless grace and forgiveness towards me. Just as we rejoice every time we hear Him whisper, “I do not condemn you…”, let us never forget that He also always adds, “…but do not sin again.”