Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference
M. Scott Peck (1936-2005) wrote "The Road Less Traveled" using Frost's theme for his title.
Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" contains the line "Yes, there are two paths you can go by..."
Jesus also said there are two paths from which we may choose. One is broad and leads to destruction; the other is narrow and leads to life. (Matt. 7:13-14)
The Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scriptures written at least two centuries before Christ, describes two paths to gain emancipation. (One is better than the other.)
Jesus also said, "I am the way..." (John 14:6)
While all Christians acknowledge that Jesus is the way, most stop at a point in time--the time they "got saved," not realizing that He said He was the 'Way'--not just a point at the crossroads.
Sincere Christians then begin to walk one of two paths, neither of which is the way to complete salvation/emancipation.
However, the Bible is pretty clear that both are necessary for a right relationship with God.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to strive for "...the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (12:14)
In Galatians 2:21 and 5:4 (and everything in between), Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that grace and law are mutually exclusive. He goes so far as to say that if we seek to be justified by the law, then "...we are severed from Christ..." (5:4)
It is an emphasis on one or the other, though, that gets us into trouble. I have tried to illustrate the concept in the graphic above.
Grace and holiness both line the path that we have chosen to follow as Christians; but neither of them--separately nor together--is THE path. Emphasizing either one begins to form a rut on the side of the road, and we all know where ruts lead. (A rut is just a grave with both ends removed.)
The emphasis on grace to which I referred has caused many to fear what might happen to individuals who do not understand the demands of holiness. They fear that if new believers (it's always the babies that come up in consideration to protect) hear this emphasis, then they will feel that "I don't have to do anything now that I am saved." But the insistence on grace, and resistance to anything that resembles "requirement" is heard loudly from many, and the objection based in fear is shouted down.
The ones on the other side, though, see the necessity of living a holy life now that one has taken on the name of the Lord. They will at least acknowledge the work of grace in their lives, but then they will emphasize the necessity of living a godly life and avoiding sin. True, dat.
The Two Ditches
Let's look more closely at both grace and holiness when either of them is emphasized.
(I will personify both "grace" and "holiness" so as to avoid saying "those who emphasize..." I understand that neither grace itself, nor holiness itself, teach what I am about to write.)
"Grace" emphasizes the finished work of Jesus, saying that absolutely NOTHING can be added to that work. True, dat. An over-emphasis, however, leads many to state their belief in such a way as to imply that not only is there nothing that they can do to be righteous, but also there is no necessity to be righteous. This is most unfortunate, because I have found that when closely examined, this is not the case at all. It's just that "grace" does not want to infringe in even the tiniest way on the finished work of Calvary.
It is true, though, that an over-emphasis on anything may lead to error, being out of balance, lopsided.
Emphasizing grace to the exclusion of holiness will most certainly lead to license, which is what "holiness" fears.
(I intend to deal with the so-called dangers of licentiousness later.)
License is the result of what the theologians call antinomianism, ie, without law. Being without law manifests as hedonism, following the dictates of the flesh, ie, carnality.
Carnality in a Christian is the antithesis of holiness, if holiness is seen as manifest only in the outward being.
"Holiness" emphasizes the need to "bear fruit," to "be holy, because I am holy," to "come out from among them and be separate," to "bring forth fruits that prove repentance."
A holiness that is focused on the outward man must of necessity be focused on what is done or not done in the body. An emphasis on this form of proving one's faith leads to legalism--if not with others, at least with oneself.
Both grace and holiness are the boundaries that define the path of life, but neither are the path. Following either one at any level will create a ditch that can only end up in the messy fields of either license or legalism.
There is, however, an alternative, and it is NOT trying to balance the two in your life.
The Road Less Traveled
The path is not on either side. What is on either side is not the path. What is on either side does not define the path. The path is not defined by what is on either side.
Jesus is the path. (John 14:6)
It is required of you that you follow Him. That's it. That's all.
No one can describe for you what that looks like, because you are unique, ie, different from anything that has ever existed before.
I would be more than foolish to even try to give examples of what it "may" look like, because I don't know.
What I do know is that following Christ has been the single smartest decision this person has ever made.
You are in Him, and He is in you. That is all you need to know.
When you know that, and grow in that knowledge through experience, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)
Following that path will make all the difference.
Comments, questions, and criticisms are welcomed here. Please add to the discussion by giving yours. Thank you.