The Problem with Paradox

So, as a non-writer I’ve been sitting here for probably a half hour trying to figure out what the heck you are supposed to write for your first blog post. Do I write about how I think? Do I inform the reader about my perspectives on life to shed light on why I write? Do I write about an issue right off the bat? My thinking tells me to shoot for all of the above. How you ask? Not the slightest idea, but hopefully this develops into something worth the digital memory (an estimated value of $0.0000001. High standards, I know) as I write. I think I shall write on one of my favorite literary devices, the paradox, and how I think it applies to Scripture in how we live our lives.

Ahh, the infamous paradox. My good friend Mariam-Webster would define a paradox as “something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things that seem impossible, but are actually true or possible.”

I think I first fell in love with the paradox after reading G.K. Chesterton’s work, Orthodoxy, which describes his journey to Christianity. As a journalist he described Christianity as the religion that made no sense to him and often seemed contradictory. As his journey continued, he began to realize that the many paradoxes of Christianity are not contradictory, but rather fully capture the truths of life.

One of my favorite examples of this is fear of God. Matthew 10:26-33 is a great passage for looking at this paradox.

     26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.8 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? 9 And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

     We see that in versus 26-28, Christ is telling his apostles not to fear men, since they can only kill the body, but to fear God since he can destroy the body and the soul….eternally in hell. A few versus later though, Christ tells us not to fear God since God knows everything, even the lowly sparrow.

Uhhh, how does that make sense?

Well, this is the problem with paradox. If you narrow your vision and fail to consider the entire context, you miss the point of the paradox. In this context, Christ is warning and encouraging his Apostles, the 12 men that he has been training for ministry, as they are about to go out on their first solo mission/preaching trip. In that context he warns them that they will be persecuted and men will seek to kill them…generally a scary thought. Thus, his directive to fear God and not man is a specific reminder as to who holds ultimate authority and power in this world….God. This is followed by Christ informing them that God knows and understands that they will be persecuted and suffer, which he illustrates through the analogies of the hair and the sparrows. Christ then encourages them with an interesting incentive. He promises them, not earthly safety or success, but rather acknowledgement before the Father when they come to be judged in heaven. Thus, Christ is highlighting that those who faithfully follow him and speak the Gospel on Earth can rest assured in their acknowledgement by Christ before the Father in heaven. Thus, we fear God in humility because of who He is as the ultimate authority over heaven and earth, but we need not live in fear of God if we believe and are living out the commands that Christ has given to his church, for we are given the assurance of Christ’s witness for us.

Paradoxes are a wonderful thing since they allow us to take two things that seems at odds, fearing and not fearing God, and draw from them a piece of encouragement and truth that sustains us in our mission in their world. If you take one side of the paradox, fear of God for example, you have just fear of eternal death. If you take only the other side, not fearing God, you lack the humility and reverence that is rightly due to the Creator of this world.

Perhaps now you have a slight glimpse into how I think, the perspective that I bring to the table, and a bit of my thoughts on the fear of God. I love a good paradox because of the depth of thought and discussion that it evokes as people seek to understand the truth of the message. You might have noticed that this blog embodies that as well, The Obedient Rebel. A paradox as to our position in their world. We are not rebels against the Creator, but rather seek to obey His commands. In doing this though, we have set ourselves in rebellion against the ways of culture and the world. Interestingly enough, if we seek to follow Christ well, we also set ourselves in rebellion against the “religiosity” of our age that shuns the interaction with unbelievers or people that are different, a rather necessary interaction if one is to share the Gospel.

Thus, we stand in the middle, rebels against the world and against the “religious” establishment in our desire to obey Christ. It is a rebellion I will gladly join in hope. It is a rebellion I will gladly spread in love. It is a rebellion that I would gladly die for (I hope) in faith.


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