Faith and Other Paradoxes

Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God~ Deuteronomy 12:28

 Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as:

 Something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible.

 Life is full of paradoxes

 There are scientific and speculative paradoxes so outrageously complex that it is excruciating to contemplate them for any length of time. I avoid those paradoxes as much as possible. But life also abounds with everyday paradoxes. These are irreconcilable, absurd events and circumstances that make no sense, things that should not be true, but are, including:

 The hungrier one is the more likely they are to crave food with no nutritional value.

 Tired children fight sleep.

 Ignoring a potential romantic partner is the quickest way to increase one’s level of desirability.

 The longer one works without a break, the fewer returns they get for their time.The Bible is packed with apparent paradoxes and conundrums. Jesus in particular was notorious for making lofty declarations that on the surface appear to be illogical and insanely contradictory:

 Blessed are the poor in spirit~ Matthew 5:3

 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time~ Mark 13:11

 Whoever loses their life will preserve it ~ Luke 17:33

 Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions~ Luke 12:15

 Blessed are those who are persecuted~ Matthew 5:10

 Every one of the above statements is, at first glance, utterly outrageous and irrational. Imagine what you would do if a stranger approached you on the street, grabbed your arm, looked you in the eye and informed you with an intense passion that if you are only willing to lose your life you will find it. Calling the police or a mental health professional would be a sensible response, because that is precisely the sort of thing a truly unstable individual says right before they hurt someone. But for those of us lucky enough to have experienced the reality of this paradox within the context of the Christian life, it makes total sense.

 Perhaps the most paradoxical notion in all of Christian teaching is the scriptural concept of freedom.

 If asked to define freedom, the vast majority of people would say that freedom is complete autonomy or independence from authority and rules. For most of us, freedom means having the fundamental right to do what we want to do when we want to do it, without any constraints or rules.

 The Bible teaches that this interpretation of freedom is not genuine freedom, but rather an alluring trap that inevitably leads to bondage and slavery. The Bible teaches that unrestrained freedom often results in bondage to fear of consequences, guilt, bad habits, addiction and brokenness. The following quote sums up God’s view of human freedom beautifully:  

 The paradox of faith is that when we conform our lives to Christ then we gain our true freedom. And its fruit is profound and lasting happiness~ Vincent Nichols

 Benjamin Franklin was doubtless mediating on the scriptural definition of freedom when he penned these words on the topic:

 Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

 Benjamin Franklin recognized a timeless truth. Freedom without God inevitably leads to behavior that results in bondage. True freedom is born out of voluntary obedience to God and His commands. When we reject God and His way of doing things, we unwittingly become slaves—first to our sin and then to outside authorities that feel justified in restraining a people who refuse to restrain their own passions.  

 At the heart of the Christian faith is the notion that that genuine freedom is found in obedience to Christ and his commands. The more obedient we are to God, the greater our level of freedom in life. Obedience to God frees us from fear, addiction, shame and guilt over bad choices. We become free to be the people God intended us to be.

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh~ Galatians 5:16 NIV

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