“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
I recently read an article by David Leonhardt that effectively captures the tension in which we’re living as we continue to deal with the disruptive presence of Covid in our lives. Leonhardt writes:
“Pretending that Covid has disappeared has costs, to people’s livelihoods, happiness and physical well-being. And allowing Covid to continue dominating everyday life has costs, to people’s livelihoods, happiness and physical well-being. The only realistic option is to balance the two and look for a path that minimizes the human damage.”
I know that there are dear members of our church family who live on either side of this tension, each with their own sets of reasons and experiences. I don’t share this to take a side but to illustrate how life is filled with tensions that we cannot simply negate but must wisely navigate, seeking balance where possible while minimizing damage.
So it is that in every generation, God’s people have to navigate their way through a variety of faith tensions: pursuing justice versus practicing forgiveness; caring for individual needs versus caring for community needs; engaging redemptively in difficult relationships versus maintaining healthy boundaries; accepting God’s gift of grace versus pursuing an active life of faith; prophetically challenging people’s shortcomings versus pastorally tending people’s wounds; enjoying God-given freedoms versus curtailing freedoms for the greater good; practicing time-honored traditions versus pursuing healthy innovations.
Notice that these tensions are not like trying to make a straightforward moral choice, such as lying or stealing, that is always wrong. Rather, these are choices that require discernment and fair-minded judgment. Like the poem of Ecclesiastes 3, which reflects on how there is a time and season for everything as it enumerates a list of paired opposites, some decisions require the ability to discern what season it is along with the appropriate corresponding behavior.
Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:52 describes a similar kind of discernment: “…every scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” In every generation, the Church has to wrestle with this tension. In today’s church, we too are to bring out treasures new and old: the rich wealth of tradition and Scripture along with the bold and distinctive kingdom vision of Jesus. May God grant us wisdom and discernment for our times!