I am continually reminded that much heartache comes in our journey by not embracing the tensions in theology (our knowing of God) and seeking to walk in the middle of those tensions that seem to contradict one another.
Our Christian journey is often a tension-filled road of discipleship. Instead of striving to walk in the middle of the road in what’s taught about Christ and the essentials of our faith, folks often end up in the ditches. And boy are they dirty!
Here are just a few ditches I’ve personally encountered:
- faith alone vs. good works
- human reason (head) vs. blind faith (heart)
- predestination vs. free will
- love vs. wrath
- Old Testament vs. New Testament
- historical Jesus vs. theological Jesus
- Scriptures vs. Jesus
- rest vs. work
- justice vs. mercy
- oppressive law vs. cheap grace
- conservative vs. liberal
- traditional vs. charismatic
- Southern Baptist vs. the world
- rules vs. freedom (1 Corinthians vs. Galatians)
- holy huddle vs. “I have to save the world” evangelism
How much doctrinal division and denominations have been formed out of choosing one side of the ditch to walk in?
All of this comes about because folks are unwilling to embrace the tensions. I wonder what kind of people we would be if we chose to walk God’s line—walk His road and stay out of those ditches.
What kind of people would we be if we accepted every believer’s portion of Christ? What if we were known by our love for one another and how we humbly explore the mystery of Christ together?
I’m confident we would be better listeners. We would be His learners.
Isn’t that one of the reasons we so desperately need each other? We help each other stay out of the ditch. But instead we often hear believers express this in a round about way: “Look! I’m over here… my side is better. Why aren’t you doing what I’m doing?”
And we think things to ourselves like, “Whew! I’m so glad I’m not stupid like that guy. I’m so glad I’m free. I’m glad I really know what’s going on.”
We go out trying to jerk wheels over to our side of the ditch through books, blogs, and magazines, and movements. I have found that people who jerk the wheel into any ditch probably aren’t paying much attention to what’s really going on. They make over-correcting a lifestyle.
If someone were to follow behind a drunk driver, that’s about how they drive. (They do often slam into the back of people because their vision is impaired.) And if they’re not drunk, it makes me say to myself, “Who taught that guy how to drive?” (I live in Houston, so I ask myself this almost everyday.)
I have followed behind some believers like that. And yes I know they have been behind me. I was in vocational ministry for a few years.
I submit that we have not learned these things from our driving instructor: Christ.
Think with me for a second. Maybe the ditches are there for a reason. It could be that those lines have been placed before us so that we can see the road. Sure, no one drives in a perfectly straight line. Nobody walks in perfect symmetry either.
But it is expected that we stay in our lane and walk on the pathway provided for us. When we don’t we’re likely to have a wreck or walk into a signpost. I think the sign says, “DON’T WALK ON THE GRASS!”
And let’s not forget this point. I look at these ditches and find that some of them don’t even really exist (e.g. love vs. wrath). We have dug our own ditches—potholes in many cases. Because we don’t see the Instructor properly, we end up driving however we like.
This makes the roads unsafe to drive on and the ditches cluttered with wreckage.
WARNING: Ditches often collect trash! They’re dirty, smelly, and they induce vomiting. There might be an occasional rain that washes it out, but eventually there will be more filth collect there in the gutter. Stay out of the ditch! It’s hazardous to your health.
Dear saints, trust God in the tensions and understand that He has given us His truth in tension-filled pairs for a reason. Seek to discover a hermeneutical (biblical interpretation) practice where you’re taking the time to listen to others in community.
A communal hermeneutic keeps us out of the ditches and helps us to stay on the road that leads us to Christ; where we may encounter the Living Lord in His written Word.
We were not created to walk behind each other, but beside each other. We were created for community. In this way we are able to lookout for the potholes, stay out of the ditches, and walk the line we have in Christ.
Lord help us to walk Your line and find the balance of traveling the road You’re walking. Amen.
So, what ditches have you encountered?