When I was in elementary school there were four teeter totters (see saws) on the playground. For those of us who were athletically-challenged, these planks on a bar were a welcome source of mindless entertainment. Opposite a friend of like weight there was a perfect, even soothing rhythm of up and down motion. One did have to be careful, however. Teeter totters were meant to be balanced. More times than I would like to admit, I was at the high end of the motion when my counter-balancing “partner” unexpectedly jumped off and left me painfully proving that gravity works.
Balance is critically important in many areas of life beyond see saws. Take, for instance, this balance:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Jesus embodied and lived out the perfect balance of grace and truth and whole volumes have been written on the implications of that combination. But I would like us to consider just one way we see it play out in the Gospels – Jesus was acceptingof all without always approvingof their life choices.
To approve of something means that you’re throwing your support behind an action, a lifestyle or a thing. Jesus proves it is possible to accept people without approving of their decisions or how they live life. He did it all the time. If you look at the Gospels and the folks Jesus interacted with, he was always showing love to them and spending time with them, but he never approved of any kind of sin people would commit. Yet that never stopped him from loving an individual.
In his book Messy Grace, Caleb Kaltenbach lists three ways we can live out this balance in our own lives (and, in doing so, become more like Jesus):
- We can be accepting but not approving
- We can be loving without applauding
- We can be compassionate without commending
This is not as easy as it may sound. Jesus was often misunderstood and regularly criticized for both showing grace (acceptance) and for embracing truth (not approving of sin). Look for all the occasions in the Gospels when he got blasted for “eating with sinners.”
It will likely be the same for you and me if we endeavor to accept people even though we are not approving their choices. But I would rather be misunderstood and criticized then be the person who takes someone to the high end of the see saw and then steps away. You, too, I hope.