The Easter Paradox
I had a conversation yesterday with Sally's tour organiser. He was musing out loud whether it would be best to put this small group in the 'Winner's Hall', the 'Victory Room', the 'Acheiver's Room', or the 'Abundant Financial Prosperity, Healing and Unending Joy Room' (well, I made that last one up, but you get the idea...)
"It sounds like the festival's being held in a Pentecostal church. I don't suppose they have a 'Humilty Room', a 'Suffering for Jesus Room', a 'Sacrifice Room' a 'Lament Room' or a 'Taking up your Cross Room'?" I quipped, somewhat amused.
"No... they... really emphasise the positive" he replied, with a gentle air of correction. (He is a saintly man who doesn't like to say anything slightly negative about anyone, even in fun.)
Now, I do love my Pentecostal friends, and I also love to emphasise the positive rather than living with a melancholy set of glasses colouring my view of everything. However, it has to be said that whenever we focus on one extreme, we fail to reflect reality. For of course, Christians are a part of the "Present but not yet Kingdom of God". A paradoxical world where the Kingdom is at hand, but the powers of darkness are still at work. A world where eternal life is within us, but physical death, disease and decay operate in our midst. A world where both joy and suffering are promised by our Lord Jesus Christ. A Kingdom that cannot be entered without dying to self and taking up a cross; a Kingdom of glorious Resurrection power and hope.
If we fail to represent both sides of the paradox of faith, we fail to represent the truth. The person who presents a dreary hairshirt version of Christianity may be sincere; but they are only telling half of the story. The person who presents the unending glory, victory, triumph, prosperity and joy version of Christianity may be sincere; but they are only representing half of the story.
The epicentre of our faith is not the promised heavenly city, but the Cross. Like the Lord we follow, we are called to first die to ourselves so that His resurrection life can dwell within us. Yes, we find victory in Christ, yes, we struggle and are tempted; yes, we are blessed with adoption as children of God, yes, we are aliens and exiles in this world; yes, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, yes, we have to put to death a sinful nature. The mystery and paradox of the cross is lived out in the life of every Christian.
As we approach Easter, we are reminded anew of the scandal of the cross:
I Corinthians 1: 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
What does the cross and the paradox of faith mean to you? Have you encountered those who seem to emphasise one side of faith or the other? How does that make you feel?