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Avoiding Extremism

We need an even balance, a well-rounded conviction,
and a brand that says "true Christian."

By Ken Raggio

Every one has a unique perspective.

Every concept under the sun is subject to a multiplicity of viewpoints. If the subject is "GRAY," there are those who would define it as a shade of black, and some who would define it as an off-white. If the issue is "LOUD," some would establish a criteria at XX decibels, while others at YY decibels. Any effort to codify or institutionalize such values only institutionalizes the contention.

It is both amusing and alarming, how we humans freely toss around labels like "conservative" and "liberal" when attempting to define one's polarity on an issue, because both are unreliable, inconsistent and misleading terms. A man who strives for the middle of the road becomes a conservative to the liberal, and a liberal to the conservative, when in fact, he is neither.

Labels are inaccurate and misleading, and encourage extremism.

Is the one who defines gray as a shade of black a liberal, while the one who defines gray a shade of white a conservative? Or is the one who defines loud in the lowest terms the conservative, and the highest terms the liberal?

How about the possibility that gray is neither black nor white, or that loud is different things to different people? GRAY is GRAY. And LOUD is very subjective and its definition varies widely from person to person.

It is best to drive in the center of the lane.

Why must we feel obligated to take an extreme position on important issues? Some people think it's safer to drive near the shoulder of the road, but there we may collide with roadside obstructions. Other people may think it is safer to drive near the center stripes, but there we may side-swipe oncoming traffic. Why not drive in the center of the lane? Even the center of the lane can sometimes be dangerous, but at least you will have all the principles of safe driving working in your favor.

Many people think Spirit-filled Pentecostals are radicals.

It is all right that the world thinks of Pentecostals as radicals. In contrast to the extreme views of liberalism and social anarchy, we are radicals! Our unwillingness to compromise with the world over such vital issues as the Biblical plan of salvation, and Biblical definitions of godliness and holiness, is a strength of character we must never relinquish.

We must practice separation from the world, but we should not practice separation from true brethren.

The need to isolate ourselves from sin and the world is well-founded. But the same tendency that refuses to associate with evil things can easily develop into a tendency to disenfranchise ourselves from everybody who does not agree 100% with us. Any way you look at it, that eventually breeds extremism.

And that is the kind of extremism which eventually causes well-meaning Christians to be repulsed, and another form of extremism is born, which is extremism reacting to extremism. Many people who become extremists, will over a long period of time grow weary with that extreme and rebound to the opposite extreme. Then they rabidly denounce their former extreme. In the end, neither extreme is right.

Occasionally, however, one of us gets carried away with the urgency of a certain issue, and thinks it is a heroic act to stand for one side against the other. Surely, I'm not the only preacher who has done that. But in the arena of truth, there is only one position. God's! We would have added yours and mine, too, but God has no use for our self-made beliefs.

The trap -- extremism reacting to extremism

Should we attempt to replace "free grace" teaching with legalism? Or should we replace legalism with "free grace"? Can we squash licentious living with extreme regimentation, or replace extreme regimentation with licentious living? No. Neither.

Isn't there an alternative to being a conservative or a liberal? How about - "CHRISTIAN"!

We must practice longsuffering with those whose views are not 100% like our own.

Jesus insisted that we exercise longsuffering with our brethren. Longsuffering means suffering for a long time. Suffering their "stupidity" (in our opinion), their "ignorance," and so forth, until they finally see things "our way." Fortunately for some of us, if we will be longsuffering LONG enough, we will finally see it GOD'S way, and realize that neither of us were altogether right.

Remember: All have sinned!

Sin exists somewhere in all of us. Holding a firm conviction against the evils of television, or Hollywood, or worldly entertainment does not provide us righteous credits to redeem on other sins, such as racial prejudice or sacrilege. We cannot buy or sell indulgences in the true kingdom of God. Sin is sin under any guise. How can we think of ourselves as more righteous than a petty thief if we constantly drive 20 MPH over the speed limit?

If I judge a man for his carnality, I must be prepared to judge carnality in myself. "For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged" (Matthew 7:1, New English Version).

Are we only motivated by extremism?

A truly thriving Christian must take care not to be energized by lambasting or attacking other brethren, but by doing the will of God. Let us focus on positive spiritual endeavors, which include tearing down Satan's strongholds by prayer and fasting and preaching righteousness. Let us learn how to be energized by establishing new beachheads for the kingdom of God by uncompromised godly living and genuine love for lost souls.

Revival cannot be produced by merely abstaining from evil.

If we think that living a holy life alone will produce revival in the world, we have been duped. Our holiness convictions must not fall into the category of extremism, or they will become our adversary. That is not to say that we should lower our standards, but that we should incorporate our convictions into a life of aggressive pursuit of God's blessing on this Church.

There are some who fail to see that the purpose of God for the Church is far more than just to be a "spotless Bride." We are to be a "glorious Church." The prophets agree that the Church in the last days will do greater works than those of the early Church. It is scriptural, but do we believe that?

Focus on the real agenda - the gospel of the kingdom of God.

If we broadly interpret certain prophetic rules, namely, the 6,000 years of man, followed by a millennial Sabbath in which Jesus rules and reigns in the earth, we can easily see that we are right now at a very exciting place on the calendar. The 6,000 years since Adam and Eve's creation are just now expiring. The so-called "Church Age" is nearly closed.

IS IT POSSIBLE that God Almighty desires to see the Church unite its resources, pray with a fervor not seen before, and set out to evangelize the world with the gospel message that is faithful in doctrine and holiness to everything that Jesus and the Apostles preached in the early Church?

Such an effort would certainly invite a greater visitation of the Holy Spirit than any other approach. The result could only be that larger numbers of men and women would be born into the kingdom of God than ever before, and miracles on the grandest scale would surely accompany such an outpouring.

Would you love to see an unprecedented manifestation of the Spirit and Presence of God, accompanied by an air of excitement and faith that would spawn floods of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings? Can anyone deny that God desires such a thing?

It can only happen if we diligently apply ourselves to a course of action that purposely avoids extremism in any form or fashion. We can only hope to achieve that kind of spiritual climate by a truly moderate approach to truth. "Wisdom that is from above is first PURE" (James 3:17). The wisdom we preach from our pulpits must first be PURE! The wisdom we utilize in our personal evangelism must first be PURE!

We must stifle any personal and private interpretations of scripture that cannot be universally true.

We must all attempt to speak the same thing, to the best of our abilities. Social and cultural prejudices must die. Our egos must give way to the common cause. Self-righteousness will have to be mortified along with all other kinds of misbehaving. If we desire to have a distinguishing mark, let it not be to distinguish ourselves from ourselves, but to distinguish ourselves from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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