I’m not overly comfortable with the common metaphor of balance. It is common to hear someone say, concerning a spiritual truth, we need to be balanced. The idea of this metaphor is that one truth, in essence, cancels out the weight of another, until we find the right equilibrium. It’s an “almost right” metaphor. Let me suggest another which I feel more closely matches how God’s spirituality works, dynamic tension.
Physicist Niels Bohr said, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” We often approach spirituality through Western philosophy. This is treating God’s reality from a false paradigm. This is what we are doing when we treat spiritual truths merely as true or false statements. Then we note that there seems to be a “conflicting” truth and we try for balance. I believe the reason Bohr, a physicist, could get closer to the truth of how spirituality works is because he was observing God’s creation which isn’t constrained by the false dichotomies of Western philosophy.
How would the dynamic tension of one profound truth being seemingly opposed to another work? Let me give an example. We have power and authority as believers. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Lk. 9:1). Do we have power and authority? Yes. Because Christ lives in us we actually have his power and authority. His power and authority flows through us.
Jesus is our ultimate example of how to use power and authority. How did he use it? He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons…and he was incredibly humble, at times setting aside his own power and majesty. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…(Phil. 2:5-8a). If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Can we cast out demons and heal the sick. Yes, just like Christ…who set aside his glory and did everything from love. If I heal the sick without being lovingly sensitive to their needs or desires, I have become a clanging gong. I may be expressing truth, but it is not being used in the appropriate tension. I am not reflecting Christ and won’t get much of the fruit I seek. In effect, I’m leading, so I’m not letting God lead. So, which is it, do I have authority and power as a believer, or should I be humble? It is the wrong question. It is viewing truth thorough a false lens. Christ was gentle, loving and humble and exercised power and authority.
Guitar strings disconnected from the tuning keys and bridge makes no sound at all. If, on the other hand they are pulled too tight, they will snap, and can make no sound at all. But, with just the right tension, they can make beautiful music. How did Jesus make beautiful spiritual music? How did he learn to live in the dynamic spiritual tensions of God’s reality? I believe a key is John 5:19 I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. Jesus learned to participate only in what God was already doing. He didn’t heal every leper or blind person he saw. He didn’t even preach the Kingdom to every single person. But he did do what he saw the father doing. And, he did this by paying attention to the Spirit. We can do the same; it is part of our new covenant heritage. Spirituality, then, becomes allowing the Holy Spirit to tune our strings to the right tensions, as we go through life listening and participating with God; obediently following his lead.
- Can you think of other dynamic tensions in the Scriptures?
- Is it possible to express God’s power in ways that are hurtful or abusive?
- Is it possible to be so humble and unassuming that we become ineffective for the Kingdom?
- What do you think Jesus was hearing and seeing when he noted what the Father was doing?