By Dr. Tim Jordan
Balance is defined as “stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis,” “equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements,” or “an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements,” according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. However, a definition that will probably make more sense to Christians is found in Solomon’s instruction to his son in Proverbs 4:23-27: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
In these verses Solomon urges his son to keep his heart, to guard carefully the seat of his emotions and will, because out of it are the issues of life. He was to fix his attention on the singular correct goal and pursue the straight path to it. Influences that would turn him aside or were to be rejected. He was to ponder, literally to make even or straight, his path. Obstacles, whether hills or holes, were to be confronted. They were never to become an excuse to turn aside from the assigned path. All steps, all choices were to be in harmony with that straight, right path. Any deviation to the right or the left was evil.
Balance is that spiritual straightness and stability that resists all influences to turn or deviate from the right path. It is the characteristic of righteousness that refuses to be allured, intimidated, or bullied into diverting from the assigned course. It resists reducing or exaggerating the truth, recognizing that error or excess in either direction, for any reason, remains error and excess.
It is important to remember that balance is a godly virtue. It is clearly displayed in the nature of God Himself. God is absolutely perfect in holiness, while at the same time He is love. He is pure and just in His judgment, yet “his mercy endureth for ever” (Ps. 136:1). God’s law reveals this virtue, calling for separation from the heathen, yet commanding Jews to love strangers, remembering they were strangers in Egypt. It is said of Christ that He was “separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26), yet He welcomed their company and ate with them (Lk. 5:30-32, 15:2). His sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross is perhaps the clearest and most dramatic example of balance between God’s hatred for sin and compassion for the sinner. Balance is godly.
A careful study of Scripture reveals that balance is a required virtue. God requires it in the lives and ministries of each of His servants. Certainly the different Old Testament passages calling us to walk straight without deviating to either extreme indicate this, such as the Proverbs 4 passage. Similarly, the New Testament contains many clear directives requiring balance in life and ministry. Our pulpits should display both sound Biblical exegesis and enthusiastic public presentation. Preaching should reprove and rebuke sin, but also edify and encourage the saints (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Christ called for balance in regard to external and internal righteousness in Matthew 23:23. We must avoid the legalism that defines righteousness as compliance with a list of “insider” rules, but we must also avoid relaxing our moral standards and personal holiness (Gal. 5:13). We must love and seek to regain an erring brother but also denounce doctrinal or moral error and compromise (2 Thess. 3:14-15; Gal. 6:1). We must be separated without being isolated, strong without becoming arrogant or insensitive (1 Cor. 9:22; 1 Thess. 5:14).
God requires that we refuse to remove the ancient landmarks He has set, but remain willing to relinquish any and all traditions of men that would keep us from growing in grace. We must tenaciously hold to doctrine and practice based on the accurate exegesis of Scripture, while patiently, courageously identifying and replacing traditional teachings and practices that actually hinder the work of God (Mark 7:9, 13). We must remain militant in our defense of the truth, but our militance””our courageous confrontation of error””must extend far beyond a few select doctrines or issues. We must be just as aggressive in confronting the lack of spiritual integrity in our private life, the lack of love in our families, the lack of reality and vitality in our devotional life, the lack of Christlike interaction with our lost and dying world. We must remain militant in our stance against doctrinal compromise, but no less militant against the hidden sins of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, carefully hidden in our past or behind “whited walls.”
We must refuse to allow our shepherding to become lopsided or one-dimensional. Peter describes our pastoral responsibility (1 Pet. 5:1-4) as being multifaceted, a ministry of feeding, leading, correcting, caring for God’s sheep. He challenges us to take the leadership, but never the lordship, over the flock belonging to God. We must refuse to focus on one or two favorite aspects of ministry, but give ourselves to fulfill our whole ministry and to declare the whole counsel of God. God requires such balance. His sheep desperately need such balance.
There is also a sense in which balance is a dangerous virtue. The ministry characterized by balance is never enough for one extreme and always too much for the other. It will often feel the pressure and criticism from both extremes at the same time to deviate from the straight path. This may explain why it seems that many men and ministries are falling all over each other in their attempt to position themselves where no one else is more right or more strict than they are. At least at the extreme they can only be criticized on one front.
Balance is not maintained by submitting to consensus of opinions. Nor is it maintained by seeking to posture oneself an equal distance from two extremes. Balance is charting a straight course based on an accurate understanding of the unchanging Word. It will often be misunderstood and misrepresented. Straightness and consistency with the Word often produce apparent inconsistencies in a crooked and changing world. For instance, Christ appeared to be compromising in His association with sinners, but was not. John the Baptist seemed strangely isolated, a radical conservative extremist, but was in fact in perfect concert with Christ. It is obvious that our perfect, immutable God can be misunderstood and misrepresented as both hating sinners on one hand, yet favoring sinners on the other. Cutting a straight line in a crooked and changing environment will occasionally make you appear to be closer to one extreme at one time, then closer to the other in a different situation. The same ministry and minister may be viewed as a legalist and libertine at the same time.
Further examination of this subject reveals that balance is a quiet virtue. In a society that glorifies extremes and makes heroes out of the most radical, balance is not only overlooked, but often considered undesirable. One-dimensional ministries that are the best, the greatest, the biggest, the newest in one or two specific areas draw great attention and praise. The ministry or minister who seeks to emphasize all of the Biblical responsibilities of ministry is often unnoticed and undervalued. Balance may escape the commendation of men, but it never escapes the commendation of God.
Finally, it must be understood that balance is an attainable virtue. That is not to say anyone will achieve perfect balance, but real and lasting progress can be made to achieve greater balance in life and ministry. If we keep our eyes on one unchanging, immovable focus, Jesus Christ; if we strive to become only what He wants us to be and all that He want us to be, we will live and minister with greater balance. Our lives and ministries must be controlled only by the Word and by all of the Word.
Dr. Tim Jordan is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and president of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, USA. Article copied by permission from FrontLine magazine.