Friday, March 20, 2009

March 20- Moderation and Balance

3/20- The Importance of Moderation and Balance

“Be careful then that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t they be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them and wound their weak conscience you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” I Corinthians 8:9-13

Calvin: But since he [Christ] was uncorrupted, a moderation that restrained excess flourished in all his emotions. So he could be like us in sorrow, fear, and dread, yet in such a way as to differ from us by this characteristic [of moderation].

Calvinism has traditionally prided itself on being the middle way. Parts of Zwingliism moved toward Anabaptist theology with its radical reform. The Anabaptists denied all authority and civil government, were pacifists, condemned oaths and courts, and excommunicated people often. Calvin was able to formulate a more moderate ground. Calvin actually married an Anabaptist wife, Idelette Bure. He was not for radicalizing the church, bur to reforming the church more to the Word of God.
Ronald Wallace in his classic work on Calvin has Calvin’s theory of moderation as one of his key concepts and contributions to the Reformation. Calvin found scripture to be a “rule of temperance” that helped us to control our appetites and excesses. For Calvin, a mark of a Christian was the ability to restrain from excess and to sacrifice for the glory of God. A Christian did not take part in extravagant luxuries nor waste of the gifts God gives us. In some ways, such a concept brought up the middle class, and took away the idea that the nobles had a right to excess while the serfs lived in starvation mode. In our day, the middle class is eroding in part because we have lost this Christian ethic of restraint, self-control (a fruit of the Spirit), and moderation. Too much desire for things we cannot afford has killed the housing market, and too much bad debt has almost nationalized our banks. I hope we will see the need to repent to restraint and moderation.
Another aspect of moderation is Christian freedom. Respecting others’ opinions on secondary things has been an important part of the unity of the church. Some saw eating meat previously offered to idols as an affront to the true God and idol worship. Others saw idols as nothing and so meat offered to a nothing meant nothing. But what the church had to see, and what scripture upholds is the idea of respecting others’ opinions on controversial and secondary matters.
Today, our denomination needs to stick to its worked-on compromise about the ordination of homosexuals to hold the church together. It should not listen to those who want to split the church, nor should it listen to those who want to ordain everyone no matter what. There is no need to radicalize the church, but to show love and restraint in the name of Christ.
The idea of moderation is important for every day life as well. The Bible does not forbid drinking wine, but it does forbid getting drunk (Calvin held to this as well). The use of media should be viewed this way. Perhaps the easy thing would be to say to our kids (or ourselves) "You can't watch any TV, listen to any radio, or use the internet because of the evil things that are sometimes there." It should be the same with finances. We do not need to live extravagantly nor as paupers- but within the means God gave us. Part of our economic downfall has been we have lost our balance.
Because something is abused that does not mean it should be forsaken. I believe humans usually find a way to abuse most if not all things in life. We must live in this world. But we must live in this world clinging to Christ, letting Him give us a balance. Christ showed us it is possible for even God to come down into this world and resist temptation.

Prayer: Lord, help us to live well-balanced lives. Keep us from excess and bend us toward living more simply, moderately, and lovingly that you may be honored above ourselves. Amen.

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