The Paradoxical Life of Christ and the Christian
By Charlie McCall
The Bible is the Word of God. Every word is inspired by (breathed out from) Him As such, it does not contain false statements because God is truth. He cannot err, and He cannot lie. So when statements in the Bible seem to contradict, we emphasize the word “seem,” and we put those statements in the category of “paradox.” We might not understand how to harmonize those statements but we know that if God said it then there is no contradiction. The contradiction is apparent, not actual.
The book of Ecclesiastes says that with much wisdom comes much grief and pain (1:18). That is a true statement. Think about how the more you know a person, the more you realize how much is wrong about that person. With perfect knowledge of people, society, government, families and ministries comes awareness of all that is good and all that is bad. Perfect knowledge causes us to know that there is no perfection outside of God. Perfect knowledge brings grief and pain. That “perfect” spouse isn’t actually perfect after all! The result of that knowledge is sorrow. If not addressed, that sorrow can lead to all sorts of problems: despair, divorce, even suicide.
Ecclesiastes also says that wisdom causes the stern face to beam (8:1). So, wisdom causes sorrow, and wisdom causes the face to beam (presumably with hope and joy). We’ve entered the land of paradox! How can those apparently contradictory statements both be true at the same time?
I believe the answer is in the fact that for wisdom to be perfect wisdom it reckons not only on the realities of this fallen world but on the reality that there is a Redeemer and that this life is not all that there is.
Jesus is described as a man of sorrows (pains), acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3). He had to be. He has perfect, omniscient knowledge. He, as the Creator of this world, knew better than anyone how far the world falls short of what He created it to be. Every single person He encountered, every tree, landscape, sunset or animal that he saw was, because of sin, less than what He created it to be. And He knew that perfectly. Literally everything in his field of vision at every moment of every day was wrong. No wonder He was a man of sorrow and grief.
But He is also the Redeemer, and His plan stretches beyond the reality of this fallen world. People often speculate on whether or not Jesus ever laughed. There is no mention in the Bible that He did. This we do know, His face beamed! Why? Because wisdom does that to a person. And Jesus not only had wisdom, He is wisdom personified (I Cor. 1:24, 30) . So He was simultaneously sorrowful and beaming with hope and joy.
Are you by nature an optimist or a pessimist? Psychological categories don’t apply to Jesus. I’m inclined to think that they will apply less and less to us as we become more and more like Him. If by nature you are a pessimist, God wants to make your stern face beam in the full knowledge of who He is, what He has accomplished for us in Christ (redemption), and what He will yet do – we will stand in glory with Him and be made like Him! If you are an optimist by nature, God wants to open your eyes to how bad things are apart from Him so that your optimism is not based in your nature or personality but in the person of Jesus Christ and the promise of His eternal Word and divine power.
How do we categorize Jesus? Many look at Him and see an enigma because they see contradiction or paradox on every hand (grace yet truth, love yet justice, kindness yet severity). If we don’t see the apparent contradictions about Jesus and embrace both sides of what is revealed about Him, we don’t know Him. He is merely a Jesus of our own imagination. It is more than a bit unsettling to accept all that He is, especially when we can’t fully understand how the apparent contradictions are, in fact, only “apparent.” We must embrace all that He is or we are not only left with something other than Jesus, but we are left with a false view of reality that will either leave us with a sorrow that knows no limit or a joy that has no foundation. When we grow in the knowledge of Jesus through His Word, we will become like Him: a people of sorrow, acquainted with grief, whose stern faces beam!