I think people love extremes.
We love to think in extremes like
“those baby killing liberals” or
“those repressed misogynists anti-abolitionists.”
“those dangerous free-birthing moms” or
“those sheeple women headed for the cesarean”
”that disgusting rich person” or
”that disgusting poor person”
We love to talk in extremes too as our thoughts often become our words.
We usually don’t like to act in extremes and we often condemn extremists.
For example, let’s look at the church and messages around money.
We have the example of those who take a vow of poverty. Then on the other extreme, we have pastors with a net worth of $100 million dollars. The people on both of these extremes sincerely believe they are honoring God in the best way possible, and helping people in the best possible way.
I created this graphic using my own terms to demonstrate the emotions, thoughts and labels we can use to think about the spectrum of money views. Money is a loaded topic and many people do not have old money stories that make the topic highly emotional.
I want you to bear with me as I expand this concept into a few other examples.
”the heart is desperately wicked”
”I can fully trust my heart”
Somewhere in the middle of those two thoughts is balance.
I can’t always trust my heart because sometimes I have emotions that lead to harmful thinking and action. I may not have the skills to understand and process my thoughts, emotions and feelings to come to a healthy choice.
At the same time, it is unsafe to always ignore gut instinct, intuition, the leading of the spirit. How many times have you had a FEELING that you couldn’t explain logically that turned out to be 100% correct? I could share story after story, sometimes harming myself or others by ignoring that feeling.
So you might be thinking: I don’t really support extremes I’m not trying to follow the path of Joel Osteen or Mother Teresa. You know that rigid extremes are neither healthy (physically, mentally, spiritually) nor frequently sustainable.
My question is are there areas of life and faith in which you find comfort and safety near the extremes? Do you feel safer with the mindset that pushes towards the extreme with out actually being a the end of the spectrum.
I’ll speak freely from my experience around money to show how I thought I was so balance and Jesus following while being on the poverty mindset side of the spectrum. You can watch a bit more of my story on YouTube, but to summarize.
I came from a family that taught that money always corrupts good people and th e belief there was while it was stressful to lack money, it was safer than wealth.
I also was raised in a church that moved towards prosperity teaching, essentially equating proof of Godly living with wealth. I thought that a desire for money was proof of evil.
I don’t see it that way anymore, I see that sufficiency, money, resources are always available and inherently neutral. Because my heart is a new creation, led by the Holy Spirit the use of this money and resources can in fact produce GOOD.
I was never on the extreme of Ebenezer Scrooge, obsessed with money, craving it, never satisfied and never experiences love, joy or peace. No ability to enjoy the abundance.
I thought I was in a “needs being met” mindset, but I was always shrinking that it meant to need.
Do I NEED a million dollars in retirement? Do I NEED to go on vacation? Do I need to have a car with low maintenance? Do I NEED to have new clothes? Do I need to have things that are preferences (color, fit, style)? Do I NEED to take my kid to the dentists twice a year? Do I NEED to have new eye exams, contacts and glasses every year? Do I NEED to buy more Bobby pins for my daughters?
I could go on and on about how I abused the minimalist concept and brought myself and my family emotional harm. That can be for another time. But because I was able to constantly redefine the word NEED I was baby stepping myself far from a “needs met gospel”
I did that because it felt theologically, relationally and mentally SAFE. I could be sure I was godly, I wouldn’t have to deal with the complexities of money and relationships, I wouldn’t be subject to judgement of others like people judge wealthy influential people.
A faithful path is in love, trust and in the middle. I wonder if Jesus mean that the path was difficult not because it was rigid like the Pharisees, but because it was nuanced.
I wonder if Jesus might appreciate our critical thinking? Would he honor our trust and the fact that we’ll make mistakes in the middle? Would the world be different if we looked at “the straight an narrow” as attainable because we can follow the leading of the Spirit?
I imagine that if we approached our thinking (which becomes our words and actions) about all these complex, heated, emotional topics without needing to be rigid and rule based what would that FEEL like? What would that LOOK like? What would be the fruit of a follower of Jesus who didn’t hang their holiness on personal perfection? What would the fruit of a follower of Jesus look like when they didn’t avoid responsibility because of mercy, grace and forgiveness?
I think it would be vastly different than the way the church looks now: hundreds of denominations, lots of hurting people who were not allowed to ask questions, people emotionally turned away at the doors because ”why are you even here if you want to engage in XYZ behavior?
I don’t claim to understand everything about Jesus’ words or have “the one right way” to interpret scripture. I don’t have to, because like it or not the Spirit is inside me, renewing my heart, mind and body. I can follow Jesus without insisting perfection from anyone, and still expecting responsibility from myself and others.
We love extremes because it makes us feel safe. We avoid the path of Jesus because it doesn't’ look the way we expect. We trust in our CERTAINTY that we understand scripture not in actual faith.
I get it, oh, I get it.
That nuanced, complicated middle: that is where it is at.
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