Tensions

“How far are you, how close am I
I know your words are true and I don’t feel them inside
Still I believe you’ll never leave
So where are you now

You’re all I have, You’re all I know
Your breath is breathing in my soul
Still I am gasping, aching, asking
Where are you now

Cause I just wanna be with You
I just want this waiting to be over
I just want to be with You
And it helps to know the Day is getting closer

Every minute takes an hour
Every inch feels like a mile
Til I won’t have to imagine
And I finally get to see You smile”

{Chris Rice, Smile}

This song came on the radio the other day. Immediately I had a skeptic response. Aren’t we supposed to enjoy life now? Aren’t we supposed to invest ourselves fully in this world? Hasn’t the Lord said that what he created was good?

Living in the moment and longing for our heavenly home are both Biblical ideas. I know friends in difficult situations in which longing for heaven and the end of pain is all the hope they have. On the flip side, the craze of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts proves that Christians are longing for ways to enjoy life fully, and gratitude (being thankful right now, right where you are) is providing that path to full living.

So what does God want for us? He wants us fully engaged in this messy world through service, appreciating his blessings and the beauty of this world. But the truth is, the pain of being in this world often triggers that place within us that knows we don’t belong in this world eternally. And that part of us longs for final, complete communion with Jesus.

Paradox abounds in Scripture. Simply defined, a paradox is something that appears contradictory, but holds truth. Consider these things in Scripture that seemingly pull opposite of each other:

  •  God is sovereign and has chosen us before the creation of the world, and yet, he gives us free choice to accept his salvation.
  • We are saved by grace alone through faith and yet faith without works is dead
  • Ecclesiastes 3, “…a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to build up and a time to tear down…”  All of these opposites find an appropriate place in life.
  • God is a compassionate father. He is a warrior.
  • Jesus came not to condemn the world, but to save it, and yet, he stormed into the temple and upturned the vendor’s tables.
  • A compassionate Jesus talks with the woman at the well. An angry Jesus spits out woes against the Pharisees.

These juxtaposition of these tensions can leave our truth-questing minds exhausted. How do we make sense of these seeming contradictions?

  • Consider the whole of Scripture. It sounds like common sense, but I’m always surprised at how unfamiliar people are with certain parts of Scripture, be it the Prophets or the Pentateuch (and those poor sections are often the neglected ones). When verses or stories are taken and used as a foundation for a position without consideration of other parts of Scripture, theological angst occurs. If you shy away from certain parts of Scripture, and are also struggling to understand a theological concept, it might be time to search those unread parts of your Bible.
  • Consider the feebleness of your mind. Ultimately, we are arrogant to think we can fully understand God. “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out!” Paul’s proclamation in Romans 11:33 follows three chapters of his discussion on God’s sovereignty and the salvation of the Jews. His words are good words for us to echo when we come up against a tricky theological issue.
  • Consider grace. We are accepted by God the Father, not on the basis of the strength of our faith, but on the direction of our faith. He gives us unmerited favor because he loves us, through Jesus. Relax in this grace as you face the tough questions of Scripture.
  • Read a good book. Talk with other believers. The tensions we find in Scripture have been the grounds for theological wrestling matches for centuries. How have other theologians handled the integration of Jesus’ divinity and humanity or faith and works?
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