Please Don’t Balance

On Saturday I was at Transformission in Exeter.  I’d like to take a comment I heard there and resonate with it here.  Mike Reeves, speaking on Adoption said something like this: “We don’t need to minimize the intimacy God offers us in order to protect our respect and awe for God, we just need to remember who our Father is!”

How true is that?!  There is such a tendency to try to balance our statements about God.  Barely have words of God’s grace escaped our lips, and there will be some Christian leaning forward to re-emphasize that God is holy too.  If you say something about intimacy with God, you’ll quickly get a response including language of transcendence and mystery.  Mention God’s love and you’ll quickly hear a “but He’s also just, you know!”

Is God really so conflicted?  Is His love really balanced by His justice?  Is there a dynamic tension keeping His grace from going overboard?

I am increasingly unconvinced.  I was reading Jonathan Edwards recently, and he seems very satisfied with the idea that God’s holiness is a beautiful central feature of His love.  No tension.  I don’t find the Bible stumbling over itself to avoid overstating God’s love.   The more I think about it, the less I see the need for 50:50 approaches to these issues.

Take the matter of sin.  Our tendency is to preach the New Covenant, celebrate the forgiveness of sins by God’s extravagant grace and then quickly retreat into an Old Covenant solution to the abuse of grace.  But turning from the New Covenant to the Old is surely a demonstration of a lack of faith in the provision of the New Covenant.  Does the New Covenant take sin seriously?  Does God forget Himself and forgive sins but not think through the fact that people will quickly rush headlong into rampant sin unless checked by some external pressure?

I’ve been struck by how the New Covenant addresses the real issue with sin: the human heart.  It isn’t that God goes soft on sin in the New Testament.  He takes it seriously enough to address the root problem (as He did in the Old Testament, although we tend to lose sight of this in our monochrome reading of the books of Moses).  God addresses the problem of the human heart.  So what is the solution to the potential abuse of grace?  Is it to impose a balancing restriction?  God loves you and forgives you of your sin, but quickly, hear the constraints and caveats I must add lest you go all flagrant on me!

No, the answer to potential grace abuse is not balancing grace with great pressure, but proclaiming grace aright.

Which brings me back to the quote from Saturday.  In a sense we need to answer the right questions.  What has God done for us in Christ?  How has He done it?  Even, why has He done it?  All good questions to probe the grace of God.  How do we have intimacy with God?  What sort of intimacy has God made possible for us by giving us the Spirit of His Son?  What, how, why – good questions.

Now let’s add Who? into the mix.  Who is it that has done this for us?  Who is it that invites us into a profoundly deep, close, personal, intimate relationship?  Who is it that invites us to call Him Abba?

We don’t need to reduce intimacy to keep the balance with respect.  We just need to remember who it is that draws us close.

6 Responses to Please Don’t Balance

  1. Olly Knight October 22, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Brilliant, totally agree! Thanks for sharing.

  2. David Gibbons October 22, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I also agree with you whole-heartedly.

    For me, it goes back to how we preach the Gospel: Do we preach it as some sort of “get out of jail (hell) free” card, or do we preach Jesus? If we preach Jesus (and the Father that we see when we see him) then we do not need to worry, for how can someone in love with Jesus continue to grieve him?

  3. Mike Taylor October 22, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Absolutely. I hear Christians talk about “balance” all the time, sometimes as though it’s the absolute top virtue that we need to aim for. I just don’t see it in the Bible. Is God holy or is he forgiving? Both! Is he our Father or our Lord? Both! Is God sovereign or are we responsible? Both! Is Jesus God or Man? Both! The moment we start looking for balances between these things, we’re in trouble.

    Many years ago, I did a word-search on “balance” in my Bible (NIV). The word occurs only four times in the whole of the Bible, once in the sense of difference, and three times in the sense of scales:

    Leviticus 25:27 – “He is to refund the balance.”
    Psalm 62:9 – “If weighed on a balance, they are nothing.”
    Proverbs 16:11 – “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord.”
    Isaiah 40:12 – “Who has weighed the hills in a balance?”

    It seems the closest the bible comes to talking about “balance” in the sense of some-of-this-but-some-of-that is in Revelation 3:16 – “Because you are neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

  4. Glen Scrivener October 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Yes of course Peter, who could disagree. But on the other hand…


    If we’re Protestants we are constitutionally unbalanced people. Christ ALONE, faith ALONE, etc. Balance on these matters is a blasphemous disowning of the gospel. On the *far* side of radical truth we find good works, desires for holiness, reverence for God. But if we insert those things *before* Christ and faith and adoption by grace we instantly lose Christ and faith and adoption by grace.

    “Yes, but” Christianity is not reformational Christianity.

  5. Bill Burge October 23, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    We must always remember that Old Testament hides the NEW and the NEW reveals the OLD.

    Grace is found in Genesis all the way to Revelation. The Heart issue is addressed in the OLD . Understanding the OLD will always prove the New. The New is only ¼ of the Bible and the OLD is ¾ of the Bible. Sit down and Read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in 4 months. You will find Jesus in the OLD with his grace and forgiveness.

  6. Fraser Kay October 24, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Thanks for this article – provoking thought.

    I think I have often done just that – been over-concerned that I will focus too much on one aspect of God and so become complacent of God in another so I chuck more salt in the mix to avoid it tasting too sugary sweet instead of savouring the sweetness of the moment!

    I guess there are many brothers and sisters who want to honour the Lord and be careful that they are not abusing the precious truths that they hold dear. If my heart is right in wanting to please the Lord then, knowing my heart’s tendency towards extremes, sometimes a balance is helpful so that I can fully enjoy what God has given me.

    Is it possible that this very article is, in one way, a call to balance ourselves against too much counter-balance!!! I don’t see this as a negative – the article rightly points out the weaknesses of an over emphasis towards counter-balance.

    There are two positive challenges I receive from your article:

    1) To honour the Lord increasingly without the counter-balancing thoughts (often driven by fear of myself) getting in the way.
    2) To lessen my use of counter-balances without dismissing the positive root they can come from – While we may tend towards putting ‘checks and balances’ in place it should only be out of a response to the Saviour’s free grace and so that we can know the completeness of all that He has given us.

    Thanks, Peter, for making me think about this.

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