Between Christian What Todd?
So, some of you are asking what on earth Christian ditches are. Some of you may also be interested in what it means to be between them. I am sure that the title alone has already led to some speculation on the part of the few of you that consistently read my meandering thoughts. But what does it mean to be between Christian ditches and what are they?
Certainly, there are some preconceived notions on the part of many about the path that we walk. For many the narrow path of Christianity runs between two camps. On the left side of the path lies the ditch we call Antinomianism or license. On the right side of the path lies the ditch of legalism, what some call Pharisaical Christianity. Are these two ditches legitimate dangers? Yes. Is walking between the two of them important? Yes. Are they the topics I am going to cover? No.
Defining the Ditches
We often find ourselves in precarious balance in many aspects of daily life. Christians are not the only ones who have to walk between ditches. Conservative political pundits often walk narrow lines when speaking to current events. Sadly, not often enough. Likewise, leftist progressive political pundits must learn the same balance. Consider the now former KARE11 meteorologist in the Twin Cities. He was recently fired for making/sharing derogative Tweets about people rallying against COVID19 responses in Minnesota.
Even amongst Christian philosophies there are variances in opinions about any number of topics or current events. Subsequently, Christians will often find themselves between Christian ditches. Often hoping beyond hope to walk a safe but faithful path between what can only be described as a landmine laden no-man’s land.
So, what are the Christian ditches I am referring to? Moreover, how easy is it to slip off the narrow path between them? On one side of this precarious path is the ditch of laziness. On the other side if the ditch of hyper-activity. To explain what I mean I will use myself as an example.
I am the guy who is easily consumed with the urgent need to be out Advancing the Gospel. At times, it’s such a consuming presence I feel guilty for not taking every down moment and turning it toward Gospel proclamation. Consequently, I am often racked with guilt.
However, there are times when I grow apathetic in this endeavor. Instead of thinking about my neighbors, I turn inward and think selfishly.
These two ditches plague Christians constantly. We, at times, tend toward being overly busy, thinking it is holy. At other times we tend toward being overly inactive forgetting that Christ has called us to active obedience. Let’s look at the account of Mary and Martha.
Using Mary to Veer from Between Christian Ditches
Most all of us are familiar with the account of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. On one hand, you have Martha who is the property owner and consumed with the desire to be a good host. On the other we have Mary, consumed with desire to sit at the feet of the Savior.
Of course, there is something powerful happening in this account. Jesus was communicating something to us without a doubt. However, my contention is that we get it wrong today. Most of us walk away thinking that Mary is the commendable person in this scenario. Consequently, we begin to see Martha as the person to not model ourselves after. But are either of them the hero of the account given by Luke? No. Jesus is the center point.
Martha’s intentions were noble. She was conducting herself in a manner that was reasonable. She even had a reasonable expectation that Mary should help her. Mary, for her part, wasn’t wrong in sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking in His teaching. Of course, we see Jesus rebuke Martha and laud Mary. But we should be very careful in understanding this as a reason to veer off the path I have mentioned.
Martha wasn’t overly concerned with spiritual issues. That may have been her ditch. She was busy for the sake of being busy. Had Martha been concerned less with the appearance of being a good hostess and more with ministry to needs of others, perhaps the account would have looked different.
What I am saying is that the path between Christian ditches means that Mary should not be a hammer used against our productive brethren. We don’t need any of that, “You have a Mary spirit or Martha spirit” jargon that I hear from so many.
Be Still and Know Isn’t Applicable Here Either
Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Often, people who perceive others as overly involved in Christian activities will haphazardly quote “Be still and know I am God”. The implication being that being about the work of a Christ follower is somehow interfering with knowing God. It runs in the same vein as “You are so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.”
The reality is that there has to be a balance. Or, as I have said so often, a path between Christian ditches.
Brow Beating Our Laid-Back Brethren
Okay. I am that guy. As I mentioned before and have confessed in a past essay, I am prone to being hard on other Christians for not being active enough in certain ways. Evangelism. Apologetics. Discernment and the like. When I am walking between Christian ditches and tend to trip to one side or the other, I will inevitably land in the overly busy ditch.
A few weeks back, I attended a rally outside of the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion. My main focus for being there was to capture the event from the inside. As part of that I wanted to interview people for and against the rally. A few days after the fact I confided to a close friend that I felt a massive weight of guilt for not having preached the Gospel at all while there. This is my natural disposition.
Consequently, I expect others to bear that same weight. But I am not the only one that functions this way. For some it is doctrinal purity. Be they Hyper- Calvinist, KJV Onlyist, Rabid FreeWillers or others. Each expects everyone to toe their self-established line of what constitutes the proper position or level of Christian activity.
This self-righteous-sanctimonious activity, (yes, I have been guilty), destroys Christian friendships and community.
Love for the Brethren Will Keep Us Between Christian Ditches
Repeatedly in the New Testament we are pointed to love one another. This love ranges from Agape to Filial love. If there is a single burden upon us directed towards the broader Church, it is to love the brethren. Jesus has commanded this love. Commands are meant to be obeyed. Paul takes this command and explodes its importance for us in two places. 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 5.
Love does not seek its own is so pivotal in this. This isn’t a dismissal of standing for biblical truth. However, what it does tell us is that we should not be seeking to lord our preferences and positions over other Christians. This single statement keeps us between Christian ditches.
Paul echoes this sentiment in Ephesians 5
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Paul is driving down into the Christian heart. Love for the brethren means self-sacrifice. But not just for the sake of self-sacrifice. Instead, because Christ modeled that same self-sacrificial behavior. If we consider how Paul explains this in Philippians 2:1-11 we won’t be able to argue against it.
These are powerful words…
And read these words carefully:
“Filial love stands near and leans on godliness. It is next to reverence for God. That first and highest commandment is like the earth’s allegiance to the sun by general law; and filial obedience is like day and night, summer and winter, budding spring and ripening harvest, on the earth’s surface. There could be none of these sweet changes and beneficent operations of nature on our globe if it were broken away from the sun. So when a people burst the first and greatest bond — when a people cast off the fear of God, the family relations, with all their beauty and benefit, disappear.”
If we truly love the brethren, we will err on the side of staying between Christian ditches…
What Staying Between Christian Ditches Can’t Mean
We are never to abandon doctrinal high ground. We do not give up foundational truths of the faith for the sake of loving the brethren. Walking the path between Christian Ditches is not a call to abandon! That would be a ditch.
Instead, we are called to walk in love, standing firm in the faith. Snatching those who are perishing from the flames of destruction. All while bearing, believing and hoping all things. Just because a brother or sister sees things differently than you doesn’t make them an enemy. Nor are they obligated to the exact same service or level of activity as you. We should certainly be spurring one another on to do good works. But that does not mean we hold others to our standards.
In short, the more we work to avoid the precarious drop into the deadly ditches, the more we love one another. So today, I call on you to examine yourself, not for your level of activity in whichever arena you are called to. But instead to see if you are loving the brethren by walking between Christian ditches and avoiding extremes.
Soli Deo Gloria!