One of the more interesting aspects of the Christian faith for me is how much of what we are called to live out in our lives of discipleship is paradoxical. A paradox is an apparently contradictory statement that still may be true: most things are in certain aspects simultaneously knowable and incomprehensible.
Christianity is filled with paradoxes. They are woven throughout the whole of Scripture and Christian doctrine and theology. Fore example, the fact that Jesus is both man and God is usually see as a paradox. However, when discussing these types of theological paradoxes, another term is better: antinomy. Antinomies can be see as a more formal type of paradox because they involve apparent contradictions or oppositions, especially between two laws or rules.
However, whether you use paradox or antinomy to define the conflict of seeming contradictions, these oppositions are woven deeply into the heart of our faith, our doctrine, our theology. One place where these issues affect where the rubber of our efforts meets the road of our living is in our sanctification, the working out of our salvation in ongoing discipleship.
Peter Barfoot, an Australian pastor, has noted seven paradoxes we face as we try to “work out our salvation…”
We Find By Losing “He that finds his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
We Receive by Giving “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)
We are Exalted by Being Humble “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
We Become Great by Becoming Small “Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
Our Weakness is Our Strength “And he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
We Rule by Serving “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the nations lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-45)
We Live by Dying “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
I am sure you can find others, such as to be forgiven we must forgive or freedom is only free when it is restrained by righteousness. The point about these paradoxes, is that they make the decisions that we must make very hard. We cannot just do “what comes natural”, since our fallen nature still part of us in the old man says:
We Find by Holding on to What we Have
We Receive by Taking
We Are Exalted by Putting Ourselves Forward
We Become Great by Becoming Larger Than Anyone Else
We Are Strong Because We Make Ourselves Strong
We Rule By Having Others Serve Us
We Live by Maximizing Our Life in Every Way Possible
That is “what comes natural.”
May God give us the grace to be different, to be the new man, the new creation in Christ Jesus, to let the old man lose his hold on us and die, to turn from the natural man to the spiritual man who embraces the paradoxes of the faith once delivered unto the saints and in doing so ratifies his adoption as a son of God. Amen.