Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Paradox = Balance

“As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:9-10).

People who chaff at the paradoxes of life are unbalanced. Perhaps I should rephrase that. To spend one’s life trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, or else choosing to ignore one of its opposite sides, is to miss the whole point. The seemingly self-contradictory statements or concepts do not negate one another; they balance each other. And to fail to recognize this is to live a life of frustration and imbalance. (Is that better?) Oh, I know, the things mentioned in the above verses can be somewhat reconciled, if we acknowledge, for instance, that it’s possible to be well-known among one segment of society (say, Christian) but unknown to society, at large. But the very act of trying to fit the infinite mind of God into the box of our reasonableness is an exercise in not only frustration, but ignorant self-exaltation.

Besides, when it comes to doctrines such as Sovereignty and Free will, or the complete Deity of Christ and His complete Manhood, choosing one idea over the other, or else insisting that the two concepts cannot coexist, leads to division in the case of former pair (Sovereignty/Free Will) and heresy in the case of the latter (All God/All Man). They are examples of paradoxes, and to lean one way or the other is to throw oneself completely off balance, spiritually. The paradoxes of Scripture are the very thing that calls forth God’s measure of a man: faith; and the very thing that makes Christianity a stumbling block to the insincere (1Pet.2:7-8).

But, what does all this have to do with me, practically speaking? I’m glad you asked. This, I think: In the same way failure to appreciate the paradoxes of Scripture leads to spiritual imbalance, failure to appreciate the paradoxes of life and people, leaves one emotionally and interpersonally off balance. For instance, Jesus said in Luke 18:19 that there is none good, except God, and yet we read of Barnabas, in the early Church, that he was “a good man” (Acts 11:24). Can you and I strike that same balance with loved ones and friends? Or must they walk a line of near perfection in order to fit our definition of “good?” The prodigal son’s father could appreciate this, but not his elder brother. The father was as patient with his repentant son as he was his self-righteous one. Many of us are guilty of seeing our own children as being without flaws, while others of us see them with little or no virtues. The truth is, they are a mixture of both and to focus on one or the other is to end up with a lop-sided relationship that never seems to be on-track. This is only one of the many contradictions of we faced with.

Life, people, and Christianity are all paradoxical. There is only one Constant in the universe: God. And the life and heart focused on Him will meet every paradox, turning neither to the right or the left (Josh.1:7), but rather, enjoying the balanced walk of faith between the two.

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