The Great Balancing Act
Standing in the college cafeteria line one Sabbath morning, I turned to my Christian roommate and asked him something about the exciting Bible courses we had just started the previous week. “This is Sabbath,” he snapped. “I don’t want to talk about that stuff.” My memory of that snappy reply has not faded over time. Its colors still seem so dark and cold, so legalistic. Yet even though he seemed self-righteous and in need of learning tactfulness, my friend was very committed in his heart to God, a very loyal and obedient Christian.
Another friend of mine who seemed to be a strong Christian lived in the room across the hall in my dormitory. He wasn’t there for long, though. After a few months, he left the school and later I found out why. He believed that a person’s lifestyle wasn’t important; he felt that his faith had nothing to do with his every day lifestyle choices. His beliefs were quite opposite the teachings and philosophy of our conservative, Christian college.
These were two people that took extremely different approaches to religious faith.
How do we balance in our minds trying to live an obedient life and also trusting in Jesus’ righteousness instead of our own? Sometimes it seems that the two are hard to hold together at the same time. And often we struggle with the belief or feeling that we have to earn our standing with God or prove our worth.
It seems to me that we must first settle in our minds that we will never measure up to God in His infinite perfection. So the purpose of living an obedient Christian life actually has nothing to do with earning our standing with God. That would be impossible. Instead, God only wants our loving loyalty and trust.
So what provides the balance between trying to be good and trusting in His goodness? In the book, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 34, we read a wonderful clue, “God desires from all His creatures the service of love—service that springs from an appreciation of His character.” Also, on page 42, it says, “Since only the service of love can be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and benevolence.” The operative word here is gratitude.
Gratitude is the love response that provides the needed balance. Because of what He has done and continues to do in our lives, because His righteousness covers us, we gratefully choose to live for Him. Gratitude for what God is like and what He has done for us inspires our loving loyalty to Him. And that in turn molds and influences our daily choices.
The Living Bible says it well in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from Him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them.” It is gratitude for Jesus’ love and goodness that makes us want to live for Him. That’s the balance!
I challenge you to live a Christian life that is permeated with and inspired by gratitude.