One of the constant struggles of understanding revelation is the multiple “streams” or “currents” which run through the vast “ocean” that is God. [I have shared in the past that the experience of being in the ocean and experiencing the temperature differences as you take a step right or left led me to thinking about my understanding of God; which is the real ocean, the warm current here or the cold one there? The sea weed infested area here or the clear part there? The crashing surf at my feet or the depth a couple hundred yards further out?]
Obviously all metaphors limp (and perhaps some think this one is permanently disabled) but I do find it helpful in reading Scripture and experiencing God in regular life. There is not any single, all-encompassing sentence that completely explains all we need to know about God. As soon as we speak there is additional information that needs to be factored in.
God is merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness. He is also quick to anger and His wrath burns against those who dishonor Him.
God richly blesses His loved ones with abundance and provides for them. But following Jesus requires that we sell it all and embrace a life of destitute discipleship relying on the kindnesses of strangers.
The yoke of Christ is easy to bare, but if you so much as have an impure or angry thought you have committed a damnable offense.
You are to live a life worthy of the calling of Christ, but all you have to offer is filthy rags.
Such ‘conflicting’ ideas are able to generate despair and unbelief. The warrior God and the Prince of Peace, friend of all and savior of a small segment, provider of only blessings yet creator of weal and woe… Our temptation is to embrace one pole, to focus on a particular stream. To declare that God is this or that and the Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it.
My preference would be such clarity. It is an organic aspect of my physical composition and my mental/emotional makeup. I like clear definitions and consistency. I like a God who is easy to understand, has communicated clearly (and briefly) everything we need to know. Yet, even as I pined for such a God I realized that any God who fits in a box, especially one so small, is nothing but a god/idol worthy of false pagan worship.
I would hasten to add that there is a difference between saying that the truth of God is intuited and discovered in the tension between two poles (He is Mystery even as He reveals Himself) versus saying “we cannot know God or His will, we are left to our own devices and intellects to construct the private realities we deem fit.”
The tensions in Scripture must be addressed, but only by a deeper, more faithful reading. The tension of pulls in different, even opposing directions, must be reconciled with the context of the ones to whom God reveals. In the end, when we have nothing God promises abundance and when we are satiated God reminds us that we do not live by bread alone. Many of the ‘contradictions and inconsistencies’ have to do with concrete, here and now, application of God’s will in a particular time and setting. They are also formulated through human authors with particular agendas (Jewish priest and prophets and scribes all had their own special concerns. Paul, James and John had unique styles. Even the Synoptic Gospels add their own personal flair as they address churches in different locales populated by different people: Jewish Christians or Gentiles for example)
Lent is a season to commit to going deeper with God. It is inherently a cross-carrying, self-denying, self-emptying process. Arrogant Christians are reminded that they are dust and will return to dust. Our temporary lives must be lived with humility. All we are is dust bags, yet…yet, He has made us little less than gods (as the psalmist said). We are nothing, yet John tells us, we are children of God. We are bi-polar as well, which is fitting for creatures made in the divine image.
So let go and entertain the truth present in the “other side.” (Make sure it is TRUTH and not just the other side though). Die to self and discover God.