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Embracing the Tension

I just came back from a great conference in sunny Florida. I’m sorry I had to mention that for all of us who are currently embracing single digit temperatures in the frozen Midwest! I was talking to Marion yesterday and reminded her of the good news that we are actually knocking on February’s door! “Can you believe it,’ I excitedly chirped, ‘now we only have four months until Spring!” Hey, all you can do at this point is laugh!

Anyway, back to the point. I was reminded of the important truth that life must always be lived in tension. No, I’m not referring to stress, fear, anxiety or the like. I’m talking about maintaining a balance between those things which seem to be opposites. For instance, many of the older preachers and hymns emphasized the depravity of our condition apart from, or before Christ. Jonathan Edwards, for instance, referred to sinners as “a loathesome stench” in the nostrils of a holy God. The great hymn, Amazing Grace, reminds us that it was grace that “saved a wretch like me.”

These descriptions seem awkward and out of place in a culture where self-esteem is pre-eminent. After all, we live in a strange time where every child in the Little League wins a trophy just for showing up! Our churches today emphasize our right standing with God and our unique role as the Lord’s friends. We are sons and daughters of the King, not sinners saved by grace.

Which is true? Actually, both sides are correct and our spiritual health rests upon our ability to keep each perspective in tension. If we lose sight of our wretched and hopeless condition apart from Jesus, we will never fully appreciate the favored status  we now enjoy because of the cross.

While it’s unsafe to live with our eyes glued to the rear view mirror of life, an occasional glance is vitally important if we hope to arrive at our destination safely.

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