Avoiding the Extremes

Chapter 5 in Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White is all about finding the place where we can operate as Christians in a world that seems to love extremes.

I wonder if some of this comes from contemporary journalism, where the headlines try to grab our attention and the news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC all seem to lead off their broadcasts with dramatic “breaking news.” The twenty-four hour news networks [Fox, CNN and MSNBC] seem to have breaking news all the time.  You know the red banners that appear on the bottom of the screen after the networks flash a bright red “breaking news” logo onto the screen.   We have become accustomed to seeing extreme reactions to things that happen.  Some would say that humans are really doing more extreme things.  Those news networks are not exaggerating.

Two days ago, I wrote about Jesus’ reaction to the rigid Pharisees and my comments were “Time and again Jesus finds himself doing what needs to be done regardless of the rules.   He puts people over regulations; He puts needs over rigidity.  If someone needs to be healed, He heals them regardless of whether the healing is on the Sabbath or not.”

In short, he loosened the rules.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the New Covenant, the idea that God came into man’s heart and the Pharisee was bypassed [“no longer shall they teach one another”]. “They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” [from Jeremiah 31].

You might think that this change would be greeted with great joy, but it wasn’t. After many began to see that the goal in life was not to fulfill the law of Moses, be circumcised, perform ritual acts and lots of other laws, there was panic.

I have been studying the Book of James in my Sunday school class and this book is an excellent example of the reaction. James is writing to Jews who believe in the Messiah, Jews who have left Jerusalem and they are seeking freedom to practice their new form of faith—Christianity.  James is telling them that a loosening of the strict Old Testament regulations is not an abolishing of the rules.  Boundaries still exist.

What I am trying to express is there is freedom in having boundaries. All James is trying to do in his Scripture is express the idea that Christians have boundaries.

I know that some people in our world chafe at the idea that ANYONE can tell them what to do but why do we need to know our limits? Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend tell us in their book [would you know it, entitled Boundaries]. “Boundaries define us….A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.  Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom….However if I do not “own” my life, my choices and options become very limited.”

We need to know where the boundary is. Jesus did not come to earth to destroy all the rules and regulations that the Pharisees held dear.   He just knew that some religious leaders had developed what is commonly referred to as a “holier than thou” attitude and that was not right.  He just knew that some religious leaders used their position within the Jewish hierarchy for their own benefit.  He knew that the Jewish faith was not as capable of attracting people to God due to the system that was in place.

He seemed to want to find a way to make faith in God more accessible. Some of you readers may think that an understatement but in increasing accessibility, Jesus did not want to abolish all boundaries. Many of the Jewish people of His day rejected Him.  He knew that was going to happen, but His time on earth was a statement, a statement that the old rigid relationship with God was over.  A new relationship has now come about.

Many who think about the extremes of today think that extremes are the only way we can exist. We can’t find some middle ground that would be acceptable to a wider range of people.

But when you read about the life of Jesus, I think He intended for people to approach God from a “middle ground”.

If Jesus was on earth today I wonder what He would think about our constant “breaking news.”

I think maybe He would tell us to “watch less television.”

 

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