To Take Either Side is to Miss the Mark
If we take the view that God alone saves and our part doesn’t mean much, we miss the point of the Deuteronomy 18:13 which enjoins, “You shall be perfect with the LORD your God,” and Matthew 5:48 which commands “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We open ourselves up to childish, narcissist thinking which entails the rules don’t apply to me so I don’t have to follow them. God becomes the big all-powerful parent who we can blame when things go wrong instead of owning the blame and power that rightly belongs to each of us as children of God made in the image of God. We humans have a tendency to blame God or the devil when we refuse to acknowledge our own power or responsibility to fix things. We need to grow up.
If we take the view that it is by our good works we are saved, as many good church-going people of all creeds do, then we open ourselves up to “do-goodism” that only has selfish benefits, we become prey to scrupulous thinking that doesn’t allow for spontaneous and genuine decision-making, and we begin to think we are better than other people because we do good. We need to be reborn as innocent children who don’t know the rules of right and wrong, who can’t read the sign that says “Don’t Walk on the Grass” and who really don’t care, knowing only they are loved by devoted and protecting parents.
The Center Point Holds the Power and the Tension
Real power lies at the center point of this continuum. I must act as if it all depends on me with the goal of not being perfect—because that is impossible and who is to say what perfection is—but with the goal of trying most perfectly to meet the needs of that person or situation as a responsible adult would do. It is a 100% effort full of humility and sincerity, with no game playing that seeks to “win,” unless it is a “win/win” for all. On the other hand, I must 100% let go of my attachments to my efforts. I must leave it all to God, trusting that it all depends on divine power. This is no easy task. It is a test to live so faithfully in paradoxical mystery; however, to act any less demeans our human dignity.
Lao Tzu: The Old Child
Intuition tells us these two truths must be held together. We have to be old and young at the same time like the ancient sage of China, Lao Tzu whose name means Old Child. It takes a lifetime of growing up and growing down to reach this level of understanding.