“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” – Isaiah 55:8.
According to the dictionary, a paradox is “Something absurd or contradictory, but in fact…is true.” So, a paradox is an apparent contradiction that conceals a profound truth. If you study the Bible for any length of time, you will come across what seems to be paradoxes. It stands to reason that God would look at things differently from us, from a different vantage and perspective. That results in paradoxes — statements that appear to be contradictory but are actually true.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” Matthew 11:28-30 says we can find rest under a yoke. We can lead by serving, according to Mark 10:43. Luke 9:48 says we can become greater by becoming lesser.
Jesus didn’t say these things to confuse us. The truth about God is that He often works in ways we see as improbable and impossible. As Christians, we seem to think God can’t work in some ways, situations, or through particular circumstances. People in the 1st century thought that, too. Jesus practices what He preaches. He is willing to serve to meet the needs of those around Him. He humbled Himself to be exalted.
Even God’s nature (one God in three persons) and the nature of Jesus (fully God and fully man) are paradoxical. Wrapping your brain around it is hard, but if we are to live as Christians, we must resist our natural inclinations and trust these paradoxes of God’s kingdom: that last is first, weak is strong, giving is receiving, loss is gain, and more.
Perhaps Paul summed up the paradox of the Christian life best when he wrote: “We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything” (2 Corinthians 6:8–10).
If you have Jesus and nothing else, you have everything. But if you have everything except Jesus, you’ve got nothing. And that is the bottom-line paradox.
- What are some paradoxes you have difficulty getting your arms around?
- What can we do to embrace these paradoxes?