Monday, January 30, 2012

The Delicate Fine Line of the Christian Walk

Being a Christian involves the challenge to walk the delicate fine bearing the footprints of JESUS.  We are called to judge actions in order to discern right from wrong but never to judge or stereotype people, because only God can read hearts, truly know & completely understand everyone's motives, reasoning & circumstances.  We are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. We are called to tell the truth in love. With God's grace, love, mercy, wisdom & discernment we pray that we will keep on that fine line, but in our human nature we tend to fall on one side or the other. If we lean too far to the right we can become judgmental, self-righteous, smug, legalistic, pharasaical, set in our ways, & angry. If we lean too far to the left we can become moral relativists with misguided compassion and the "sloppy agape" that enables sin, & we can fail to stand up for essential principles like the sanctity of human life, integrity, purity, & righteousness and to see ourselves as somehow superior because of our "open-mindedness" while judging others as "narrow-minded bigots". Our acceptance of people should not include tacit approval of all their actions.  We need to love and accept people unconditionally but we are not supposed to promote an "anything goes" society.  We cannot have love without truth or truth without love.  At the same time that our lives, words and actions must authentically proclaim "I love you", they must also authentically proclaim that certain behaviors are unacceptable, or else we could be "loving people into hell" and creating a society of moral chaos.

It took me awhile to realize that as hard as I try and as much as I claim to be otherwise, I am sometimes critical and judgmental deep inside, even though I try to fight it and sometimes hide it deep inside myself.  I do strive to be authentic, but sometimes I miss seeing this fault in myself.  However, in striving not to be critical or judgmental I must be careful not to accept the moral relativism of our society and not to fail to stand up for what is right or to try so hard to please people that I compromise my values.  If "sin" is really "missing the mark", then I guess this is often where some of my sin--and possibly the sin of many of us--lies.  JESUS is perfect unconditional love and perfect justice, perfect compassionate love and perfect uncompromising truth.  It is so hard for us to be fully "on target".

In recent years I have become stronger in my convictions of the urgent need to protect the unborn and fight abortion, especially since we have a president who has an extreme pro-abortion agenda and who is closely aligned with Planned Parenthood, the largest purveyor of abortion.  I believe that we who are Christian, especially we who are Catholic, have a moral duty to fight abortion, to fight Obama's agenda, and to work to ensure that in the upcoming election we elect a pro-life candidate to replace him. I know that I find it very difficult not to go from my ardent disagreement with this president--whose views might be connected, in part, to misguided compassion--to severe judgment of him as a person and to hatred of the sinner as well as hatred of his sin. I believe that the abortion issue, freedom of religious expression, protection of conscience rights, and the Judaeo-Christian values on which our nation was founded are the key issues that must guide our voting decision.  Yet there are people of good will--even good Catholics and even strongly pro-life Catholics who are active in the Church and faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium--who do not agree, and there are people who are pro-life who sincerely believe that other issues, like peace (including refraining from engagement in war), social justice, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and our troubled economy are of equal or higher priority. The teaching of the Catholic Church requires us to be pro-life and recommends that the pro-life cause should be an important part of our voting decision, but the Church does not necessarily condemn people who are pro-life but who vote for a pro-abortion candidate or choose not to vote for either candidate if they weigh all the issues and somehow find the pro-life candidate deficient in other important areas. These people either chose to vote for Obama or chose not to vote for either presidential candidate in 2008.  God alone knows their hearts--I don't.  I do not know how many we can successfully win over to give a higher priority to the abortion issue and support and vote for the pro-life candidate in 2012, but I'm trying. Those with more liberal leanings might accuse the candidates who are mostly strongly pro-life of a lack of compassion for the poor, while I would argue that the candidates who support abortion are candidates who are trying to "help" the poor by "killing" the poor by means of abortion and who are not providing for the poor by reaching down and lifting them up but by increasing their dependency on the government and turning America from the land of opportunity to the land of entitlements.  It is hard for me to understand how a pro-life faithful Catholic could ever vote for Obama and could not share my passionate opposition to him, but I know that some have voted for him and might do so again, and although I hope that I can persuade them to my point of view, I also need to respect them and their consciences.  I must not go so far to the right of the fine line to agree with some pro-life Catholic FACEBOOK friends who insist that faithful pro-life Catholics who choose not to put the abortion issue as the highest priority are somehow unfaithful or "cafeteria" Catholics and "paint" all Catholics who voted for Obama with "the same brush".  To do that would be to engage in stereotyping them and to judge people rather than to judge actions.

This can seem very confusing, but finding a delicate balance is no easy task.  The challenge of walking the fine line that JESUS walked is a great challenge.  It is so hard for us as human beings to know the mind of God fully.  I know that God is passionate about the protection of innocent human life and moral righteousness, but He also is a compassionate and merciful God of unconditional love and the only One Who has the right to judge people as well as actions, because only He can fully understand the heart and circumstances of each human being.

LORD, give us Your love, Your grace, Your wisdom, Your vision, and Your truth so that we can truly follow Your footprints on that delicate fine line.


  1. It is very true that it's hard to be balanced in our following of Jesus, but that is indeed what we are called to do. We are called to be obedient to God's law, and share with others the Good news of God's love for them while not being judgemental of them. Further, we are called, as you point out, to speak the truth with love and compassion for all those in our lives.

  2. I've found that unless I'm asked for my opinion on these issues, or unless someone that is a very close friend or family member is suffering because they are deeply lost in sin and God touches my heart with the command to intervene and help them, I keep my mouth shut and pray for them. Because God is the creator, Jesus is the savior, the Spirit is the teacher and I am just a poor, stupid human bein' who needs as much help as the next person. For me, balance is simply allowing everyone to work out their lives and salvation with the Lord of life as their guide.(not me)