Oh, yeah. I’m balanced. See, I know lots of people on one side of me with all sorts of rules to follow. You know who I’m talking about – the legalists. On the other side, I see many Christians who seem to have no standards at all. You know them, too – the liberals.
Now – if I can see people on both sides of me, then I must be balanced. They, therefore, must be extreme.
Nice logic, huh? …and I wonder why others don’t see things like I do.
Can I See Clearly?
I once was blind, but now I see. I know Christ, the Light of the world, has given me sight. I’m pretty sure I’m not color blind. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses, or woes-colored ones either. Nope. I’m balanced.
What I often don’t notice, though, is that I see all of life with a distorting “lens effect.”
What Is The “Lens Effect”?
The lens effect is what makes me notice even subtle differences between things that are like me, while overlooking great variation in things that are unlike me. It’s like a giant magnifying glass right over my life. I see the center (me) in great detail. Anything nearby I can see pretty distinctly, too. But the farther away things get from my center, the harder they are to distinguish.
So, I can look to the left of me and see “lots” of people. I can look to the right and see “lots” more. And that lens, magnifying my self-centered image of “normal”, projects a picture that makes me look perfectly balanced – to me.
Where Else Do We See It?
The lens effect impacts all sorts of things in life.
- I can hear differences in the accents of folks from Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina – states where I have lived. Others would lump them all together as a general “southern” American accent. For me, it’s much harder to distinguish English speakers from different African countries. And Spanish? It doesn’t matter who’s speaking, the whole language all sounds the same to me — even though I know it’s as varied as English.
- You can recognize your family members’ faces. You know each one individually. But when we see people from other ethnic groups, it’s easy for us to have the offensive idea that “they all look alike.”
- Members of popular political parties see “the other side” as enemies and polar opposites. Supporters of many outside movements claim to see no difference between those same two political parties.
- On one hand, independent fundamental Baptists find reasons to break fellowship from each other over — let’s face it — minor differences in standards. On the other hand, we assume sweeping generalities of what Muslims, Hindus, or atheists believe. And when we do, we find it much harder to message Christ’s love individually – the way He did.
Why Does It Happen?
In a word, the answer is time. As I spend time with something, I learn its details. When I know details about things, it’s easy to see how they are different. This is why parents of identical twins can easily tell them apart, but I usually can’t.
The more important something is to me, the more time I spend with it, and the more I magnify it in my life. The more I focus on something, the more I change to become like it. It becomes normal to me, and I grow sensitive to anything different – even slightly different.
When I neglect some things while over-emphasizing others, my view – my life even – can become distorted.
How Do I Fix It?
If I hold on to my distorted view of reality and trust it, then I’m really blind. So the first step to fixing my distortion is to admit that it’s there.
That takes humility.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
— James 4:6
The next step is to be intentional about how I use my time. Do I need to catch different Spanish accents? I should spend time listening to them!
Do I have neighbors who are Hindu or Muslim? I should invest time getting to know them. Not as nameless followers of a religion, but as individual people.
Do I find another person’s ideas to be completely preposterous? I should take the time to understand what they really believe and how they came to believe it. If I don’t, I won’t see clearly to share truth with them in a way they are prepared to accept it. I’ll probably waste my time fighting a misguided battle against a position nobody really holds.
And that can really be embarrassing. Not to mention, pointless.
Oh – and when I spend time with those who are different… I just might learn something that changes my lens!
OK, Now Am I Balanced?
Honestly, I’m not sure it even matters. I don’t recall any Scripture that says we should be “balanced.” Even if I do want to be balanced, I shouldn’t measure it by seeing how many people are to the left or right of me.
“…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
— 2 Corinthians 10:12b
When I am focused on what God wants me to do instead of how I compare with everyone else, thinking I’m “balanced” will be far less important to me.
And those words — liberal and legalist — I’ll probably find they won’t even be a part of my vocabulary any longer.