As a writer, I am often writing much more than is publicly visible. Every now and again I write articles which are passed over by those publications I submit them to, which in turn allows me to publish them here. Hopefully, they can still be of value.
To live and participate and be vocal in modern society is to be forced into binary black and white “teams” that leave no room for anything but complete agreement or total disagreement. Moderate middle ground is all but frowned upon these days in a world where you must either be a Democrat or a Republican, pro-life or pro-choice, globalist or isolationist. One of the big issues – euphemistically named “marriage equality” – allows for only two points of view – open-mindedness or outright bigotry; heaven forfend someone be allowed to respectfully disagree, and hold to their own beliefs and principles.
Yet, that is exactly the line that God calls us to walk. It’s a fine line, to be sure, and as society “progresses” around us it’s only going to grow more and more difficult.
The line doesn’t just run through politics, however – though, in this day and age, it is currently most pronounced in political disagreements around the world, in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Australia, to name a few. It would require some very intricate theological gymnastics to argue that “Christians should vote” for one party or another. If we were to line up all the major political issues at play in our world – refugees, marriage equality, abortion, healthcare, et al – you would find that the Bible advocates both Democratic and Republican, liberal and conservative, points of view depending on which issue you pick.
Beyond politics, however, we are similarly called to walk a fine line when it comes to our lives and our faith as well. Of course, a number of political issues intrinsically hinge on our faith, but even when we limit our thoughts to the purely theological and Biblical issues – Calvinism versus Arminianism, predestination, free will, etc – we must be careful not to blind ourselves and succumb to target-lock and end up becoming legalistic and tuning out necessary wisdom and teaching.
The difficulty about living a life of middle ground beliefs is that, occasionally, we need to know when not to take a middle ground – which, in and of itself is a middle ground belief. Many people consider utter and complete open-mindedness the most important way to live, while others hold to their self-imposed principles no matter the cost. As Christians, we must at times be willing to hold to what we know to be true, while sometimes opening our minds to other issues, and occasionally walking a respectful middle ground.
In other words, we must always walk a middle ground.
How do we do that? How do we know when to close our minds, when to open our minds, and when to walk the narrow moderate road?
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2
The words “do not be conformed to this age” have a specific meaning for Paul, who was instructing the Romans not to let themselves succumb and prioritize the patterns of the secular world around them, and from which they had recently emerged. Rather, Paul instructs them to look to the “perfect will of God.” This is important for us in two ways. First, and of course obviously, we are called to similarly turn our backs on the patterns of the world around us and instead “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, so that [we] may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Like Moses, we can pray, “Now if I have indeed found favour in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favour in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.” (Exodus 33:13)
But of course, as I laid out at the beginning, the current pattern of the world is to pick a side and bleed their colours until you die. As Christians, we’re called to be non-conformists. Or, to look at it on the other side of the binary coin, we are called to conform to God’s will alone. Our “side” and “team” is the Kingdom of God. We live and die by our team, which maybe suggests that life is much more binary than even the most open-minded of liberals would like to admit. I once read someone say something to the effect of, “Christianity is not meant to be a members only club.” Distressingly, I think that’s exactly what God intended for Christianity to be. His Son said, “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Matthew 13:30)
“No one ever said being a Christian would be easy.” We’ve all heard this and know that it applies to difficulties, persecution, spiritual warfare, etc. I think we also need to begin applying it to forming our beliefs and standing by our principles. The world seems hell-bent (pun intended) on crushing Christian values, invalidating the very foundations of morality that have been at the core of Western civilization for literally millennia. Christians are vilified for “narrow-mindedness” when we hold to Scripture, and “bigotry” when we disagree.
Thankfully, we do not live for this world. Jesus warned us of what we would encounter and called us to something greater: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Paul, writing to the Philippians, said that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.” The glorious part of Paul’s words come next: “but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:19-20)
The lesson? Middle ground at times. Closed minded at times. Open minded at times. Above all, “love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)