Q Zone: The Balance Beam (1)

The Fine Line

Walking a fine line is no easy task.

Two people know this well: gymnasts and Christians. In fact, for the Christian, many issues are “balance beam” issues — fine lines that have to be navigated carefully, thoughtfully, often retrospectively. Such is the case with this current load of questions, which stem from our closing week in the “Re:Member” series. They are all questions rooted in the commands of Romans 12:9-21, and I have asked our staff to walk this balance beam with me, answering the questions as best they can biblically, practically, and personally. I’ll kick it off, but then they’ll take it from there. We’ve got a great team here at FFC, and I think this Q Zone series (“The Balance Beam”) will show you precisely why I love working with these guys.

Oh, and if you still got a lingering question, drop ’em a line (as long as it’s a fine one).

1. When Romans 12:10b says to “outdo another in showing honor,” is this creating the risk of competitiveness, which may foster pride or boasting within the church body? Not at all. The point of the verse if to be passionate about serving and preferring others, which isn’t possible if your aim is merely becoming some kind of church champion in the honoring category. More than likely, this is Paul’s somewhat hyperbolic way of encouraging the believers to put others ahead of themselves, the same thought that resonantes from Paul’s pen in Philippians 2. And if we took this to heart and “got after it” much like we do when we are competing (i.e., passionately), we’d find a lot less selfISHness in the body of Christ and a whole lot more selfLESSness. (Todd S.)

2. How can we be in harmony if/when someone is blatantly wrong? Remember that harmony is not equal to unity. Also, remember that this passage should cause you to examine your own heart, not the heart of your neighbor. Clearly, even within the pages of Scripture, there are several examples where godly men and women failed to get along well with each other. The clearest example may be the illustration of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas who could not come to terms over a disagreement, and chose to go separate ways (Acts 15:39). Sometimes, for the sake of greater unity, it is better if two or three people agree to disagree and keep their distance from each other.

I believe what Paul is addressing in this passage concerns the heart of a believer and the importance of maintaining a humble attitude towards others. We are not to look down on others or presume to be superior to them because of our spiritual standing. We are to seek out and associate with the lowliest person just as eagerly as we would seek out the friendship and association of a well-respected individual. Moreover, you don’t want to be the person who is constantly bringing disharmony to a body. Again, this is often a clear fruit of the sin of pride in your life in which you must always be right or appear to be right.

In a word, humble yourself and seek to live in harmony with those around you. Obviously, this does not mean that you should submit yourself to a cantankerous, arrogant person. In fact, the Apostle John instructs us to identify the trouble makers who are motivated by pride and to put them out of the church (3 John 9-11). (Chris Eller)

3. If we are kind to our enemies, will this condone the actions and behavior of our enemies? First of all, I think it is important to think about the way we use the word ‘enemies.’ As Christians, we need to make sure that we are not giving the label of ‘enemy’ to those who simply have  differing viewpoints or beliefs. We don’t need to be the ones who decide who our enemies are. We need to love without discrimination. However, the fact that Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) tells us that we will have enemies. Our enemies can be found by looking at the second half of Matthew 5:44 – “and pray for those who persecute you.” Ultimately, our enemies are our enemies because they choose to be the enemies of Christ and make it their aim to hurt us because of it.

When we look at the way that Jesus treated his ‘enemies,’ we see that he loved them and had compassion on them. In Luke 23:34 Jesus is on the cross and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He did not call out judgment or condemnation on his enemies, but rather, he interceded for them. Jesus loved his enemies. HOwever, when we take that command to heart (i.e., to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us), it does not strip us from the ability or responsibility to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

While we show kindness and love to those who are in sin or who are opposing us, we must continue to stand firm on the truth contained in God’s Word. We can love people with our actions and our words without affirming sinful lifestyles and attitudes. It is difficult, but it is necessary. Remember – Jesus gives us a new commandment in John 13:34 – that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. In fact, Jesus tells us that this love will be the evidence of those who are His disciples. So let us love one another, even those who persecute us. (Nathan Hiatt)

4.  Are we scripturally allowed to defend ourselves against our “non-physical” enemies, like the onslaught of our culture against us through homosexuality, abortion, etc? Actually, it’s very scriptural to defend yourself. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” As Christians, we need to be able to defend our faith and the values that accompany it. This means having a well-rounded knowledge of theology, and actively pursuing a deeper understanding of the Christian beliefs. In that pursuit, you will be able to defend yourself against the attacks of the culture and be able to understand why you believe what you believe.

That being said, knowing why you believe something and being able to defend your beliefs against the attacks of the culture doesn’t necessarily mean that the attacks will stop or that other people will see eye to eye with you. Sin has had a profound, destructive effect on the human mind and logic, and it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit, not argumentation, that attackers can become brothers and sisters. (Brett Stiles)

5. Why is it loving to heap burning coals on your enemies’ head? Understood correctly, this ancient culture symbolizes repentance — when one party, in an attempt to reconcile, humbles himself or herself to the other party by bringing hot coals on their head, probably signifying the desire to renew the relationship and share a meal (the universal sign of fellowship). So if God could use your kindness (i.e., food and drink when they are hungry and thirsty) to humbly bring your enemies to repentance (i.e., coals of fire on their head), then that’s a loving thing to do, for it shows your heart for restoration. (Todd S.)

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