“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 117)
What is the centerpoint of your life? Is it the same as the centerpoint of your Bible? The centerpoint is important. Consider two children on the teetertotter, change the centerpoint and the entire dynamic of balance changes.
And yet, as it is difficult for theologians to balance the justice and mercy of God, and as it is difficult for parents to balance firm discipline and loving acceptance, so it is very difficult for the Church to maintain unity and purity at the same time. It is much easier to go to a consistent extreme than to stay at the center of biblical tension. Whether in the local congregation or in the Church at large, the Church of Jesus Christ seems incapable of living out both godlike oneness and godlike purity simultaneously. The result is that the reflection of God’s image is distorted, the evangelistic thrust of the church is blunted, and Christians are stunted in spiritual growth.
Consider the balance of justice/mercy, or grace/holiness, oneness/purity, missions/growth. Where is the Centerpoint? The peril becomes that most of us think that we are in the center of biblical tension and others are at the extreme. For example, two things come to mind: ministering mercy and seeking justice. The religious leaders of Christ’s day were strong on justice, as they interpreted it, but weak on mercy. Jesus emphasizes a major theme in the good news of the Kingdom of heaven. He desires mercy to govern our relationships (Matthew 9:9-13 and Matthew 12:1-8). God’s plan is for his people to pursue both justice and mercy for the welfare of its community.
Centerpoint – where did Jesus find the centerpoint? The first thing he did was to sit them down and give them the sermon on the mount (Luke 6). Who is happy and who is unhappy, who is fulfilled and who is unfulfilled, who is blessed and who is cursed. A great place to begin. He sets all our values on end. Where else would a person get straightened out if he didn’t companion with Jesus?
Imbalance does not come from an over-emphasis. It is impossible to have too much love or too much faithfulness. However, it is quite possible to have unfaithfulness masquerading as love.
I do not ask the ecumenist to be less loving. I urge him to be more faithful. I do not ask the separatist to be less faithful. I urge him to be more loving. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalms 34:14). This is God’s balance.
The centerpoint of the Bible is Psalm 117, short and balanced: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” Praise puts Him in focus. First and last words of this central chapter of the Bible – Praise the Lord.
God is the centerpoint of the Bible. Praise puts him centerpoint in our lives. Romans 2 is the picture of humankind off-center, skewed, destroyed. “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil” (verse 9).
When we chart the way to God-centered living we do no wrong in pointing out that as the only path to personal self-fulfillment. Try to fill up on stuff, sex, and significance, on self, that is, and you’ll get ever more empty, taught Jesus. On the other hand, work at emptying out life into God’s purposes and you’ll discover your “self” is filling up, fulfilled.
Why should we praise him? For two reasons: His steadfast, unfailing love and His steady, long-term, permanent faithfulness. Balanced: love and faithfulness as John says, full, simultaneously full, of grace and truth! We are so unbalanced: either all “truth” or all “grace”. What is the goal of this relationship and resulting character? The goal is that ALL nations, all peoples. Not just Jerusalem, Zion, Israel, not just your people or your family, know Him. We find the balance – To Know Him, To Make Him Known.