Walking the Tight Rope

The first of a series of articles on the balance of the Christian Life

"13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

The Christian Life is likened to a journey in the Scripture. We are pilgrims and strangers on our way to our heavenly home. This journey must be undertaken on the King’s Highway, which is otherwise known as "the way of Holiness" (Isa 35:8). This way is a narrow way. A broad way leads to destruction. A majority of the world and even of professing Christians are walking on this broad way. But true believers are not only enabled to walk in the narrow way, but made willing to walk the narrow way.

The narrow way is the old paths, marked by the Law of God (Jer 6:16). Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4). Christ came to deliver us from sin or lawlessness. Therefore such as are truly saved will love the Law of God (Ps 119:97) and will not find walking according to it to be grievous (1 Jn 5:3). They will walk in love and gratitude according to the wisdom and power of the Spirit dwelling in them (Rom 8:11, 14). But it is not a blind and mindless walk. It is a walk that will involve conscious choices. It is possible for those who appear to be walking in the way to fall out of the way, whether in ignorance or deliberately. But those who cease to walk in the narrow way end up walking on the broad way. And if they continue in it without repentance, they will find themselves crying out unto the Lord at the Last Day, only to discover that they are none of His (Mt 7:21-23).

The sheep of Christ will persevere in the narrow way unto the end. This is the promise of their Shepherd who led them into the way in the first place (Jn 10:27-29). But the sheep of Christ will hear His voice and follow Him. This is how they remain in the way. Yes, it is Christ who keeps them in the way. But no, they are not passively led. The sheep of Christ hears, makes choices with renewed minds (Rom 12:1-2), and follows with renewed will (Phil 2:12-13; Tit 3:5). It is in this manner that we are by the grace of God kept in the way of life.

At first look, this appears easy enough. Follow the commandments of God, and you will be walking in the narrow way. Indeed, for young believers, who are just learning to walk, it will often suffice to teach the Ten Commandments. Teach them the Ten Commandments using, say, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and you will find the newborn lamb walking confidently with the Lord in no time.

But as the lamb matures, he will soon find out that it is not so easy. Soon, he begins to realize just how narrow the way is. He finds that he can step out of the way easily even as he tries to keep the letter of the Law. This is why God commanded His saints: "Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left" (Deut 5:32). Then as soon as He learns that there is such a thing as the spirit of the Law, he realises that he can fall out of the way not only by failing to keep the letter of the Law (i.e. by antinomianism), but also by failing to keep the spirit of the Law (i.e. by legalism)! This is but the beginning. All too soon, the maturing lamb finds that the Law has far greater practical implications than he first realized. Soon, through many heart-aches, he finds himself struggling between pleasing God and in some ways pleasing man; between keeping an individual conscience and submitting to authority; between impartiality and respect for elders; between outward conformity and sincerity; between admonishing in truth and embracing in love; between preparing for tomorrow, and not worrying about tomorrow; between resting in faith, and doing in duty; between sorrowing for sin, and rejoicing in hope; between loving parents and loving Christ; between being harmless as doves and being wise as serpents; etc, etc. The sheep of Christ has discovered the beauty of the Christian life!

Living the Christian life involves an art of living. The Christian way is not only a narrow way, it is a tightrope where balance is essential. The child of God will not fall beyond recovery, for underneath are the everlasting arms. But he has a responsibility to walk circumspectly in the line of that delicate balance if he would glorify and enjoy God.

Does this mean that the Christian life is a life of compromise? No, not at all. It is true that because of the delicate balance the Christian will always be tempted to compromise. But no; there is a difference between compromise and balance. He who compromised has either turned to the left or to the right. He is sinning against God. He who is living a balanced Christian life is walking in the way of holiness. Take the case of the balance between pleasing God (Gal 1:10) and pleasing man (1 Cor 10:33). It is, of course, displeasing to God to please men by refusing to reproof their errors. But how can one who refuses to ‘please men’ by not putting stumbling blocks in their paths (1 Cor 10:32) be pleasing God? Or how can one who, in the interest of maintaining God’s truth, harshly rebukes anyone in error, please God when God has commanded that "the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves…" (2 Tim 2:24-25). Let me put it this way: It is possible for me to sin against God while thinking that I am pleasing Him by my action. I sin against Him if I fail to maintain the balance that He has given in His word.

Dearly beloved, I am convinced that the greater part of the pains and sorrows in the Christian Church and indeed, any Christian congregation today is due to imbalance. Were we without sin, we would walk in perfect balance, and we would reach the heavenly city together in harmony. But it pleases God to leave a remnant of corruption in us. Therefore we must strive to enter the kingdom of heaven (Lk 13:24). We will strive with the strength and wisdom of the Spirit of Christ, but we have to strive and to maintain that delicate balance that the Word of God calls for. Let us strive for that balance. Let us not give in to our sinful tendency to swing to the extreme left or right. Tremendous joy awaits us and others who will interact with us in our Christian walk if we would walk in that balance. May the Lord who has gone ahead of us as the Captain of our salvation give us His help as we seek to follow in His footsteps. Amen.

—JJ Lim