The Balance Beam

August 24, 2008

I was watching women’s gymnastics in the 2008 Olympics and more specifically, the balance beam. I still consider myself somewhat of a novice when it comes to what is good and what isn’t on the beam. For example, the commentators, who typically are seasoned gymnasts, make known every tiny mistake that is made, whether I see it or not.

China started off on the beam. Everything looked ok; smooth and enjoyable to watch. It looked as if it was easy and that most anyone can do it with enough practice. It appeared to be an unimaginable virtual world as I glanced in the background of what the high definition camera captured. Thousands of people were glaring at one person, sliding, twisting, jumping and flipping on a four inch wide beam. As the difficulty level rose, so did my adrenaline by trying to picture myself on that beam. I could even feel my palms begin to get clammy with each twist and turn.

The first girl made a few mistakes that I did not necessarily notice until the commentator said, “You see she had a balance check, there; that’s a deduction.” Apparently a “balance check” is when, at any point, the gymnast adjusts their balance during a move or in transition. In many cases, it may represent a slight leaning, extra pause or the most obvious, falling completely off the beam (which I’m assuming is simply a fall, since they are only “checking” the floor). They deduct points with each of these seemingly trivial mistakes that continually frustrated me, the viewer. The problem that I had with these deductions is that each one of them was verbalized by the commentators so that millions of people know that, “she had a balance check” or “she missed the third flip on that turn.” Very few people would know that any of these things happen, unless they fall off the beam or don’t stick the landing. Probably the only reason I am frustrated, is in my selfishness, knowing that I most likely could not even walk across that beam without having a “balance check.” These girls are doing flip twists, using hands and feet along with intricate balancing techniques, not including the dismount, which I will never be able to do for the rest of my life. And if they make a slight slip or movement not in the original routine, it is brought to the attention of millions in a matter of seconds. Tyranny.

I tried to imagine if God were the same way about my sin. After watching a ‘Mark Driscoll’ sermon last week, an illustration he used penetrated my mind regarding the forgiveness of sins. He stated, “Imagine if God sent you a statement each month of all the sins you committed.” I thought about that sermon as I watched the balance beam event in the Olympic women’s gymnastics. Each move or slight deviation from perfection is clearly a deduction, and frowned upon. Justifiably so, our sins are the same in the eyes of God. Sin is defined as “missing the mark.” We all miss the mark everyday and in more ways than we even realize. If we are not morally perfect, i.e. perfectly fulfilling the Ten Commandments all the time in thought and deed, then we are missing the mark. So God, in His divine justice and righteousness, could remind us just how short we have fallen from His infinite Glory by sending in monthly sin statements. But we are clearly reminded of our fallen nature by our own conscience, His Spirit and His Word. For God says,

“Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations.”
Ezekiel 36:31

If the judges of the balance beam are just, then they will deduct anything that falls short of a perfect routine. In the same way, because God is just, He must punish anything short of His righteousness and glory, i.e. sin and rebellion. His very name is at stake. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.”
Ezekiel 36:23
The obvious difference in the judgment between gymnast judges and God is that man is fallen and fallible, tainted with sin. A man’s observance of a gymnast on a balance beam may or may not result in a deduction. It is a glorified opinion. All faculties of judgment, visual observations and rationale are a mere creation of God (among all things). Yet our sin distorts and perverts everything that may seem perfect or may possibly be perfect from our sight. In other words, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect score’ on this earth because every one of us is fallen and rebellious. Even in the Olympics, the standard in which we are judged is indeed, another man. All world records are set and broken by sinful man. We have made ourselves our own standard; that way we never fall short because man’s ways are good in his own eyes.

In the spiritual realm, the only standard is absolute moral perfection. The standard is to be exactly the way that God declares Himself to be in His Word. It is a command. Anything less is infinite rebellion and deserving of infinite punishment because He is just and His very name is at stake. There is not a possibility that God will ‘miss’ a sin as if He were a judge for the Olympic gymnastics. He sees all, knows all, decrees all and judges all in His righteousness.

“Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

As each gymnast steps on the balance beam, the performance of the act is subject to the strictest judgment that the very experienced human judges can offer. But, even the greatest judgment offered by man is fallible. It falls infinitely short of what a true righteous judgment is because the standard is finite and fallen. This is why the Olympic Games are perilous, mundane and worthless in the eyes of God [for those who do if for their own glory] because it consists of man glorying in himself by judging himself according to his own standards. The greatest athletes in this world are glorified and seen as great because of his accomplishments in the eyes of man.

Anything other than the demonstration of perfect faith and righteousness according to the law is infinite blasphemy in the eyes of God and makes a mockery of His Name. Therefore, any judgment according to man is irrelevant to the judgment of God and His ordained precepts. In this perfect decree, the illumination and preciousness in the shining forth of the Father’s Glory is represented in none other than the perfect Supreme Being, Jesus Christ.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, his in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the world of His power, when he had Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
Hebrews 1:1-4
Because Christ is the exact representation of the Father or, in His being, the visible image of the invisible God, the only satisfaction that is even possible to the Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and ultimate judge, is the righteousness of His Son. It is infinitely important to realize the standard in which we are judged. We are judged in accordance to the Law or according to the exact righteousness of the Father. The treasure of the Triune Covenant lies in perfect righteousness, love and harmony as the Father glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father. It pleased God to bruise His Son in that Christ Himself upholds all things by the word of His power, and having purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). This perfectly glorifies and satisfies the Father in the Supreme exactness of His Son. The standard is to be exactly like God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Because God’s Name is so glorious, His infinite love is proved in the sacrifice of His Son. Although He is perfectly just in punishing all sin by sending every sinner to hell because His name is so beautiful and Holy, His perfect decree and covenant was to incarnate this righteousness in Christ. During this incarnation, the consecration from the Son to the Father represented the perfection in the form of a Divine Man, i.e. God in the flesh. Since the death of man is caused from his own sin, the only true gift that any man can ever receive is eternal life through Christ. The only true gift man can receive is God giving Himself to man, by the death of His Son.

“And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation. But the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:16:17

The Olympics are enjoyable to watch. But, injustice is seen all over the screen as flaring opinions launch into the air about what is just and what isn’t. Each race, dive, routine or game is judged according to the standard of a rebellious soul. Although God is indeed completely good and Sovereign over all these things, the real judgment is to come. The true judgment is on how we treat one another or speak to one another. The true judgment is according to our deeds in convergence to the God [god] that we serve.

“And as it is appoint for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:7-28


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