Great God of Paradoxes

I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:5

Our God is truly great. Every day he reveals His majesty to us anew. But He is a paradoxical God, yet we can find beauty in His paradoxes. Perhaps being jealous and steadfast, being avenging and loving, is not quite a paradox. But it is a shining, glorious not-quite paradox. And when law can be that numinous, grace and gospel are even more beautiful and beckoning.

Our God is joyous and terrible and His creations and incarnation – everything He is and everything He spoke into being – are joyous and terrible too. Everything he is. All of his paradoxical, preeminent, perfect characteristics – we are made to glory in these. We are made to glory in redemption, grace, and forgiveness, and we are made to delight in paradoxes as well, because they are a part of God’s creation. A confusing, unstable, difficult, and paradoxical part, but they are a part nonetheless. He made them for a reason. And so we smile and laugh and worship together.

  • God is invisible, and yet unseen we see Him.
  • God sent his own Son, who was also God and was One with Him yet a distinct different person, to earth.
  • Jesus Christ (the Son of God, but also God) is true God and true Man, the son of both and the Lord of one.
  • Jesus had to die in order to conquer death.
  • We can feel so close and yet so far away to God.
  • God is a Trinity, a three-part One that cannot be explained by any metaphor, simile, or allegory that the human mind is able to grasp. He is three Persons and one great God.
  • Father, Son, and Spirit are equal, but one is the Son of another and the third proceeds from both (eastern Orthodox traditions: proceeds just from the Father).
  • In communion/the Eucharist/the sacrament of the altar/koinonia, body and bread, blood and wine, coexist, in, with, and under each other. (Catholic tradition: the bread and wine become the body and the blood – transubstantiation but not necessarily a paradox. Reformed/Protestant traditions: the bread and wine symbolize the body and the blood – not a paradox at all.)
  • In baptism, a few simple things (water and words) become the gate to the Kingdom and it is thrown wide open. (Not exactly a paradox – more of a miracle. Some traditions, i.e. Baptist, may disagree).
  • Depending on your definition, there can be no, 2, 3, 7, or millions of sacraments. (Again, not a paradox, but repentance-inspiring anyway – as long as you have at least one sacrament, one way Christ speaks to you through ordinary things.)
  • God forgives murderers. (We cannot do this without His help and grace.)
  • God’s Son, who is the same as Him and yet not the same, equal and yet proceeding, God and yet man, had a human mother.
  • Jesus’ human mother was an unmarried, fallible virgin (Catholics may disagree on some points regarding Mary).
  • God loves everyone, regardless of sex, background, century, home, ethnicity, race, sins, social status, looks, grades, job, income, education, hobbies, desires, age, size, talent, or personal loving tendencies (or lack thereof); He even loves those who don’t believe in Him. At the same time, He only welcomes into His eternal Kingdom those who believe and repent with the Holy Spirit’s help before the last day. (This is difficult to understand, but it is sweet and saving nevertheless. I would argue that those who disagree are not true Christians, but that is for our Maker to decide on the last day.)
  • God only pardons the sins of those who ask it, though He loves all, yet he does not pardon their sins unless we tell others they are forgiven. (This is the Office of the Keys, an obsure – but important – part of Lutheran theology. Other traditions may disagree.)
  • The Church draws together people who would never meet nor desire to meet otherwise. My enemy in the world might be my brother (or sister) in Christ.
  • The true faith includes people who believe radically different things about predestination, gender, baptism, communion, and Mary. All who believe that they are sinful, that they cannot overcome their sin on their own, that they need Jesus’ help, that Jesus died and rose again for them, and that He is the only Way to heaven, are saved. (Those who disagree can still be saved.)
  • Even people who lived before the incarnation of Christ can be saved, such as Moses, David, and Noah. (Some traditions – i.e. Catholicism – may also argue that there are those living today who, though they never may hear of Christ, still have a longing for Him in their hearts and therefore will be saved. Let us leave that up to God.)
  • Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but not all will accept His grace and be forgiven. (If you believe that you don’t have to accept Jesus to be saved, I’m sorry, but you are not a Christian. Some traditions believe in predestination instead.)
  • God knows before you choose something what you will choose, but you have the free will to choose it. (Some traditions disagree.)
  • The world is broken but it has been made new, it is being made new, and it will be made new, and all manner of things shall be well.
  • We are wired to understand, not mere truth propositions, but story. (This is not a paradox, but it is an important and striking truth proposition, which you might understand better if I told it to you through a story.)
  • And finally, because it is completely unhelpful and therefore even more delightful: could God make a stone so heavy he couldn’t lift it? (And Aslan replies, Child, it is not for you to know what could happen, only what will. That will not.)

Our God is truly great and his paradoxes leave us in awe of His greatness. We are trying to understand what is not meant to be understood but what has been revealed to us for long: even despite sorrow and sin, God is always good.

Lord, remember us when You come into Your kingdom.

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