For the last couple of weeks we have talked about how our faith is a complex system of balances that we achieve. Two weeks ago, we talked about how we have to balance the “head” or knowledge part of our faith with the “heart” or experiential part of our faith. And last week, we talked about how we have to balance the part of our faith that speaks about our being “chosen” by God or predestination, with our choosing God or “Armenianism.” This week I went to talk about the balance we must achieve between the outward-facing part of our faith and the inward-facing part of our faith.
The inward-facing part of Christian faith is the part that is focused on growing deeper in our faith. It is focused on “entering and dwelling in” the presence of God. Focusing our energy on the inward spiritual life allows us to weather the storms that life brings us; it gives us energy for healing broken relationships and dealing with difficult people, and gives us courage to serve and work in difficult circumstances. But when left by itself, the inward-facing spiritual life can be self-serving; for example, we might pass by the hurting and needy so we are not late to Bible study, or we might be so engrossed with the transforming of our minds that we lose our connection with the world around us.
The outward-facing part of our faith is the part that is concerned with two things primarily: serving in missions, and telling others about our faith. It is interested in proclaiming through word and action the faith you have in Jesus, and inviting others to the journey of faith.
We are participating in this when we serve the homeless, bring food for the food pantry, invite others to church and faith, and invest in the lives of the needy of our community for the sake of Jesus. But when left to itself, outward-facing faith can burn us out; it can build resentment towards those that we are helping; and it can give us a sense of being better than those with whom we share our faith.
But when a healthy balance is achieved between the inward- and outward-facing spiritual life, something really cool happens: we find that our inward devotional life grows even deeper because we have seen the wideness of God’s mercy and love in serving others; and we find that our outward service life grows more energetic because it is fed by the deep well of recognition that what we do is a response to what God has done in our lives, and a desire for others to experience it as well.
So this week, may you be moved to examine the balance between the inward and outward parts of your faith, and may you strike a balance that renews your Spirit.