“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 your life trying to reconcile the irreconcilable, or else choosing to ignore one side completely, is to miss the whole point. These seemingly self-contradictory statements or concepts do not negate one another; they balance each other. And to lean completely one way or the other is to throw oneself completely off balance spiritually. The paradoxes of Scripture are the very things that call 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 only God is good, and yet we read of Barnabas, in the early Church, being “a good man” (Acts 11:24). He was a good man, but not a perfectly good man.
I wonder, 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’re 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 life we’re faced with, in dealing with people.
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.