Maybe you have heard about the distracted driver who was getting into the edge of the road, when he over-corrected and swerved directly into the path of oncoming traffic. We have a tendency to go “from one extreme to the other.” Some brethren are like that. They seem to have great difficulty holding a true course down the center of the road, always tending to veer into one extreme or another. You can always count on them to take some far out, extreme position. Extremism is quite common, for we see it all around us. But it is a dangerous habit, and in the church it can lead to spiritual disaster.
For example, being generous in our giving, and liberal in our love and affection one for another is a good thing, but the extreme of liberalism should be devoutly avoided. The temptation to “loose where the Scriptures do not loose” has proven very real in some congregations. Some of these we would hardly recognize anymore as churches of Christ, and some have even given up the pretense of calling themselves that. The extreme of liberalism shows itself in a willingness to venture into our own ideas and opinions, leaving behind the authority of the Scriptures. Never mind that God said, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God,” (2 Jn. 9).
We read about women in a congregation being encouraged to “assume leadership roles” in the church, even though God says: “But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve,” (1 Tim. 2:12-13). They speak of “expanding the roles of women” or “moving forward” or “making good progress.” But Paul spoke of “holding fast the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours,” (2 These. 2:15).
Others argue we should liberalize our attitudes concerning when we partake of the Lord’s supper. Again, they move to extremes, and forget the traditions of the apostles. Those traditions included the observance of the Lord’s supper on “the first day of the week” as we are plainly told in Acts 20:7. Paul himself was present when that was done, and participated in it. So when a congregation decides ”upon further enlightenment” to have the Lord’s Supper on, say, Saturday evening instead of the first day of the week, they are actually ignoring and disobeying God. Such extremism should have been carefully avoided, but it still seems to rear its ugly head in a number of congregations these days.
Some members of the church have gone to extremes in being “more charitable and loving” toward the denominations, loosing where the Scriptures never loosed, compromising where the Bible takes a clear stand, and surrendering the word of God. The Bible still says we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11). The way to reconcile that command with open fellowshipping of denominational error is to go to extremes.
Still other members of the church agree that we must not loose where the Scriptures do not loose, but then they go to the opposite extreme of “binding where the Scriptures do not bind.” They like to make rules, and more rules, and rules upon rules, to the point where liberty and expediency are forgotten concepts. “Don’t eat in the church building!” “Don’t support orphans from the church treasury!” “Don’t cooperate with other congregations in evangelism!” etc. etc. Adding to the word of God is just as wrong as taking away, (Rev. 22:18-19), and one extreme is just as harmful, just as sinful as the other.
A brother who sees the danger and error in emotionalism, must be careful not to allow himself to become cold and heartless in his worship. A sister who recognizes the danger of gossip and slander, must not permit herself to become cold, withdrawn and detached in fellowship. Extremes tend to beget extremes, as the pendulum swings back and forth.
Brethren, we need to remember that God has given us his word, and he expects us to follow it in right down the line. He does not need us to loosen it up or tighten it, it needs no adjusting, only respecting and obeying. We must hold a straight course, and be careful about overreacting and getting into extremism in either direction. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleansesth us from all unrighteousness,” (1 Jn. 1:7). That wonderful fellowship and cleansing is to be found “in the light” of God’s word—not out there on the extremes.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.