Our society is fixated on extremes. Extreme sports, extreme home makeovers, extreme couponing. We Americans tend to believe more is always better, which translates to bigger restaurant portions, larger home sizes, and giant box stores.
Our family had a little bigger-is-better experience the other day, too. We decided to make a fire from the large pile of logs Nelson split last summer, a big fire. Before we knew it, flames were reaching all the way up the chimney and licking out the front of the fireplace. We left ambiance behind as we watched the thermostat move through the 70’s and head for the 90’s. Not long after that we opened the windows, welcoming 33 degree air inside the house.
Now that’s extreme.
When Jesus walked the earth, he was a collection of extremes. His message, especially, was radical, but he never once wavered from it. His sinless life was also extreme, something no one before or since has been able to duplicate. And what he offers mankind is extreme, too, a life sheltered by his perfection, not just for a day or a week but eternally.
His enemies, too, were extreme in their efforts to get rid of him. They stalked him, criticized him, ostracized him, beat him and eventually murdered him. But even with their excessive efforts, they ultimately failed. Today Jesus is alive and managing the universe with very little effort from a place of extreme honor.
What does Jesus think of our human tendency to take everything to extremes? Many of us commit with gusto to new God-related projects such as regular Bible reading, prayer times, tithing programs or service projects, but just like New Year’s resolutions, they’re usually short-lived. Some of us even get an urge to live exactly like Jesus, making passionate vows as proof of our sincerity. But even then, our extremes peter out with time.
This probably tells us something about ourselves, and something about God.
As for ourselves, we should probably attempt to walk a line somewhere between extremes. For example, reading Scripture daily is a worthy goal, but if we miss a day, it shouldn’t be cause for despair or quitting altogether.
As for God, he can shoot for any extreme he wants to… and pull it off perfectly, every time.
“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:16-18)