When I have a glass full of water, I can’t fit in anything else, because it will overspill. But if I empty the glass, then I will have the option of filling it with milk, juice, and anything else I want to drink. When I am full of preconceptions, bias, and rigid standards, then I have no room for anything else. My life remains the same and, therefore, there is no room for growth. Drinking just water, though healthy, does not allow me to nutrient myself with vitamin D from the milk or vitamin C from juice. My nutrition will be limited, not balanced.
A balanced life is the ultimate goal if I am going to serve God fully. Let me explain. Following a set of rules, tradition, or doctrine without the flexibility of learning from others impedes me from relating and bonding with others who are different from me. I must then empty myself from the preconception that what I have chosen to follow originally is the only doctrine that I will consider the rest of my life. Then, I have to allow myself to balance my life by practicing and following other doctrines. This may sound like a path to pluralism, but it is not. I am not suggesting to take all faiths as leading to God. What I am saying is that we should stop judging others prematurely simply because they are different from us. Having a strong foundation in my faith is important. Having the compassion and the willingness to listen to others without excluding them from “salvation” is even more important. Inclusion is the key. The opposite of inclusion is compartmentalizing, which is what most of us do when we segregate different cultures, churches, and areas of life. We tend to divide our lives by acting one way in front of our children and spouses, and totally different when going to work or church. We often praise God and give offerings in church on Sundays, and the following morning we curse at work and waste money on trivial things in fashion stores. We live compartmentalized lives. We keep ourselves full of our own values and interests. We live unbalanced lives. The idea is not to go to the other extreme and start giving all your money to every charitable organization, or to treat every single person as I do to my children. It is to choose wisely how to fully serve God. It is to balance our lives. But we must first empty ourselves from ourselves. We must deny ourselves.
Jesus clearly taught about emptying ourselves when he taught about turning the other cheek (as opposed to retaliation), walking the extra mile (as opposed to deny service), and loving our enemies (as opposed to hatred). He taught us to love others as we love ourselves. This is the main teaching of Jesus, but many people take His teachings to either extreme and say that we must follow rigid rules (the Ten Commandments) or rely solely on grace, without worrying about works. Paul taught that faith without works is empty, in other words, do both, not just one of them. But we rather think in extremes, because we still have not emptied ourselves. Jesus taught us to have mercy and pray for our enemies, but we rather maintain selfish lives, blame the poor for their needs, and curse our enemies, because we still have not emptied ourselves. It seems so safe to keep ourselves full of water, but this water will not allow us to experience the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven. Emptying ourselves, and then keeping our lives balanced, like Jesus taught us, will lead us to Salvation.