Bible Study Tools / Self Control

Christian Paradoxes

by Rainer Salomaa
Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 on Unsplash

We live in a very interesting age. Through human reason and inventions, we have mobile homes that don’t move. We have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. There is more knowledge, but less good judgement, more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We have higher incomes, but lower morals.

These are times of steep profits and shallow relationships.

It is an age of paradox when we have sports clothes for work, junk food that costs more than real food, and sweatshirts that are for loafing.

Under communism in the former Soviet Union, some referred to the “six paradoxes of Soviet life:” (1) there’s no unemployment, but no one works; (2) no one works, but productivity goes up; (3) productivity goes up but there’s nothing in the stores; (4) there’s nothing in the stores, but at home there’s everything; (5) at home there’s everything, but no one is satisfied; (6) no one is satisfied, but everyone votes yes.

During this time of reflection and self-examination we as Christians are also faced with some spiritual paradoxes. Here are a few of them, each followed by a scriptural reference:

1 . To find our lives, we have to lose our lives. Matthew 10:39: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

2. To be exalted, we have to humble ourselves. Luke 18:14: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

3. To be great we have to be servants. Matthew 23:11: “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

4. To receive, we have to give. Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

5. To be free, we have to become slaves. 1 Corinthians 7:22: “For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.”

6. To be strong, we have to become weak. 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

7. To be strong, we have to fast and pray. Matthew 17:21: “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

8. To please God, we live in the world, but are not of the world. John 17:14-15: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

Based on faith, these Christian paradoxes work, but don’t necessarily make sense to the carnal mind. We know that God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than our human thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). What seems right to a man, leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). The apparent foolishness (to the world) of preaching God’s truth helps to save us (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Certainly at Passover season, when the Christian world emphasizes leavened bread, God’s children seek to be unleavened and marvel again that Christ our Passover was crucified for us. The powerful Son of God weakened himself to the point of death, so that we weak human beings can attain to strength and power in the family of God. That is indeed a profound paradox!

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