It’s been a while, but I used to love to ride a see-saw. Remember what that feels like? The sensation of flying, propelled by leveraged force from somebody on the other end of the board. Something in my soul has a strikingly clear recollection of legs dangling, suspended, at the mercy of the one whose weight anchors the other side. If they don’t keep up their end of the bargain – the “up/down” agreement – you’re helpless, unless you jump.
If you are local (Richmond/Powhatan) and attend PCC, you saw a great visual aid this morning at the Powhatan campus. Brian delivered part of his message on the book of Jude while delicately balanced upon a huge see saw.
He focused on the need to have balance in life. Grace and holy living – both necessary and essential in spiritual terms, but only potent in a positive sense when there is balance. The see saw was a great prop to show what happens when we lean too far to one extreme. Too much attention to law and behaviors and checklists of “being good” and thwack – the sharp angle of the board is a great metaphor for the slippery slope of imbalance. Take too much comfort in the wide swath of grace and the board tilts the other way – but the sharp angle yields the same result. You just fall in a different direction.
I watched Brian on the board. The weight of his body on one side of the see-saw – metaphorically leaning hard into holy living, for example – jacked the other end of the board up in the air. Whichever he chose – grace or holy living – set the balance of the board. And with a see-saw as a metaphor, you can take the logical next step.
There’s got to be somebody else on that playground apparatus – a partner on the other end of the board. Without it, you’re just a guy, standing on a board.
We all get to choose, you know. Not only for ourselves and the internal decisions we make, but also in how we approach others. How we treat people. How we tweak our expectations. Holiness and grace are applicable as we examine our own lives, but they weave in and through our interactions with others as well.
So here’s part two of that message today, at least the part that I needed to hear.
When I interact with others – whether on an “official” basis as part of ministry responsibilities, or even with my kids, the clerks at DMV, the checker at Food Lion, the guy next to me at the red light – I’m living in that tension. I can choose to act or react leaning towards grace or leaning into just being right. If I’m not actively trying to balance my own actions – which is harder than it looks, as we saw today – I’m the weight. I’m a hundred pounds of force, glueing one side of that board to the ground.
And what happens to the person on the other side? My friends, my kids, my husband, my coworkers, the lady with 20 items in the express line? As far as our interaction goes, they’re dangling – at the mercy of my choice. Any chance for an even dialogue can be tainted by my approach.
It matters. We’re covered in grace, but how we act, what we do and say – not only our personal actions, but in community – it matters. We’re not just a guy, standing on a board.
Here’s the wrap up, from Jude himself. Worth thinking about this week.
But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life! Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven. -Jude 20 – 24, The Message