I mean really, it doesn’t get the headlines and it just isn’t sexy. You don’t say, write or do things in moderation to get people off their couches and activated right?
Longtime friend and mentor George Verwer wrote a book many years ago titled “Revolution of Love and Balance”.
As founder and director of Operation Mobilisation, himself continuing on in special projects and missions world-wide, he had/has pretty well “seen it all”.
In his writings, speaking and personal conversations he shares a deep concern for extremism (that is, it ain’t good!) while yet loving people, even appreciation and understanding of how they came to various extreme views and practices rightly concern/ed George.
But as I’ve often said, Americans are not known for balance! We are known as some of the world’s most extreme people.
Any time I’ve joked about “our amazing sense of moderation” while on tour in say, Europe, I always get plenty of smiles and laughs. Our reputation for excess is rather expected and in truth, easy to validate from history. Of course, we as a nation are not alone in this and again, most of the world is intelligent enough to know that as well.
We are largely considered some of the most kind, open, giving people while at the same time some of the most dogmatic, “THIS is the WAY to DO X, Y or Z… you NEANDERTHAL” self-righteous, judgmental, un-gracious peeps on the planet also. Human nature apart from the lordship (yes!) of Jesus lands us there all too often.
The first time my eyes fell across the Bible text “Let your moderation be known to all people” I remember thinking “Wow! How is THAT even possible?”
We live, get hurt, hurt others, get truly “burned” (rightly or wrongly decide we were/are), come up with ways to cope.
Sometimes we’re so angry or unforgiving, so judgmental that we decide the only way to fix the mess is “go back to square one”, “re-create the wheel”, toss all sense of proportion and balance to the wind and just start over in an extreme fashion. “THIS will save me!” is the mindset. “This self-medication will fix me.” I get that. I’ve DONE that.
Getting stuck is easier than getting free because “where ever you go, there you are.”
To be sure, there are times the carpet is so damaged by the busted plumbing that the only sensible (and workable) response is to send it to the rubbish and go find a new rug. Got that.
Then again, there is “throwing out the baby with the bath water”. There is creating something we LIKE better than is not intrinsically better for us, or for others. Or we demand everyone else join our circus and help feed our monkey so to speak. There is the view we are correct and have “the deeper truth and higher light” and it’s just too bad (or “let ’em cook in their mess, maybe that’s what they need”) others are so stupid in how they choose and live.
Again, in some cases with some individuals or groups of them such a view may be spot on, really and truly correct! Hmmm: sometimes you judge exactly as you’ve been judged. The new boss really IS the same as the old boss… only you’re the boss now and that feels more safe and secure. At least it’s more to your personal liking. Plenty of us like extremism. Often, age and experience (hangovers of all sorts in life…) bring the wisdom and stability that comes from taking time and thought before running to the extremes.
Just as among various cultures, subcultures (think about WHY subcultures exist within larger cultures) and ethnic groups, nations, regions within nations- there so many options, common but also different experiences and views along a wide, wide spectrum, so it is among Christ-followers.
Being gracious with our differences is often not our go-to motive nor attitude as we consider the individual or group. Sometimes we just negatively judge. Often, this seems based upon our own sense of taste, style, right-and-wrong, or even perhaps flawed (or correct but sans love and compassion) interpretation of scripture.
As I age I truly appreciate the phrase “your mileage may vary” or in social media, YMMV, meaning “For me, this was GREAT but you may have a very different experience and outlook on it”. That’s a reality most extremists aren’t willing to admit as truth.
Myself and many I serve with in Jesus People U.S.A. in Chicago have long loved and quoted Proverbs 11.1 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but a just weight is His delight”. You can end up in the “abomination” category on either side of the scale.
A.W. Tozer said many wise things, one of which was “It says and it also says” in dealing with The Bible itself, “the perfect law of liberty”, the “sure Word” of God.
We choose, decide to have faith in something and “go for it” and that’s the only way anyone can actually move along in life whether correct or incorrect or whatever percentage of both at the same time. In the end, we all make plenty of mistakes. EVERYONE is out of balance sometimes.
But again- extreme statements (“shock spirituality”?) gets the press. I believe being radical for its own sake is essentially useless. Throughout world and Christian history we see great and horrible things said and done in the name of “a better way”. “The Final Solution” actually seemed correct to some at one point in Germany. Did ALL Germans know about it or when they did, thought it excellent?!! Absolutely not.
How does one obey the command of Christ to “Love your enemies” when and if, they are fellow Christ-followers (who in your view, take a far “lesser” road)?
I suppose in part by careful, honest personal inventory and re-checking the Bible, prayer, and by deciding you will both listen to and sacrificially love [those]- the “them” who are part of “us” even if they aren’t part of your personal posse. And this, my friends, is the price many often neglect in their sense of knowing and living “a more perfect way”, the way of love.
The “better way” IS love. Forgiveness. Understanding. Grace. Compassion. Mercy. Not “Do it MY way because THIS is the WAY of God!” Yep, form is never substance.
It seems to me we are all victims of our chosen lifestyle and though God may well have called us and delivered us through it, to somehow think we have right to judge or worse, condemn all others on the basis of our own “exalted knowledge and revelation” is often the very thing we left “the others” to escape!
Humility calls us to take great care in our embracing an extreme position. Love calls us to be very careful with our own heart and attitude toward others when tempted to self-righteousness in negatively judging others for not taking the same view as we have.
The results of extremism are clear throughout history. May we learn and think long and hard before we choose it.
As always, thanks for stopping by!