I thought that it would be fun to look at what appears to be some oxymoron’s which I find in the bible. Well, I’ll call them oxymoron’s for the sake of this blog! 🙂
We’re called slaves yet we are children of God
We walk in the fear of the Lord yet we live in love
Salvation is free but it costs your life
A friend of mine queried me about my use of the term ‘fear of the Lord,’ for to him it brought the connotation of fear and dread, to be afraid of God. This did get me thinking – there must be lots of terms we use that seem totally contradictory! 🙂
Do you know of any others? Please share them with me!
I’ve only got three down here but I am sure there are more! (I thought this would be a fun, short blog but it’s ended up being quite lengthy! Patience. 🙂 )
Let’ start with the first one…
We are called slaves yet we are called children of God.
What does this mean? Is the Bible contradicting itself? Can one be his child yet be his slave at the same time?
To answer these questions I think we need to go behind the intent of each statement. When the term ‘slaves’ was used it was meant to portray that fact that we have no rights. You see, when we have rights we can make demands, we can put our foot down and say “no!” This is how many seem to relate to God. God, give me this, do that, make a way here, clear the way there, etc. We say we are really only asking but the truth is more that we are making a demand and this demand is often based on the fact that we believe we have rights and that it is God’s job to make sure that these rights are being met.
The reason I say this is because of the disappointment we feel when God doesn’t do what we have asked him to do. If we viewed ourselves as slaves then we would not be having these expectations of God but rather, would be very grateful for whatever he did do for us. We would not be focused on our rights because as slaves we have no rights!
Ungratefulness seems to be a curse that affects so many Christians I know. I have even been guilty of it!! I do believe that this ungratefulness is rooted in the belief that we have rights and that it’s God’s job to meet and provide for those rights.
We love to focus on the fact that we are children and because we believe we are children of God then we believe we have these rights as children and if God really loved us then he would be doing something about making sure these needs (what I’m calling rights!) are being met.
The truth is, children can be so ungrateful. They often do not realize what they do have because it is just so easy to focus on what they don’t have. We fall into the comparing business and then begin to accuse God of loving others more than us because of what we perceive he is doing for them that he is not doing for us.
Children also do not realize what they do have until they no longer have it. I do think this is also the case with adults too, mind you! 🙂
From the way I see it, as children we can be assured of our eternal future, that he does love us and care intimately for us and is very fond of us. As a father his heart is to bless us and shower us with his loving kindness. Having the attitude of a slaves keeps us in a place where we hopefully remain grateful for what we do have – mainly, life! Also, that we do not take for granted the life we do have but seek to live it in a such a way that we will make our master happy.
So, do I see the two thoughts opposed to each other? No! I actually see them enhancing each other and making us a better person when we live both to their true and full potential.
Well, what about the next oxymoron?
We walk in the fear of the Lord yet we live in love.
It would seem at face value that these two are totally opposed to each other. How can one walk in fear and yet walk in love? The answer lies in understanding the meaning of the fear of the Lord. For me, the fear of the Lord is clearly expressed when I live my life loving what God loves.
An example is as a child of my parents I tried to live in a way that I pleased them in what I did. As I matured I discovered more and more what type of behavior displeased them and what type of behavior brought joy to their hearts. Because I loved them my hearts desire was to try and please them by doing things that would make them happy. I did not do this because I was afraid of the punishment I would receive but rather I did what I did because I loved them. This to me expresses what walking in the fear of the Lord means. Mind you, I was not always successful in living this way! It seemed, as a child, that there were many obstacles in the way that prevented me from pleasing my parents!! 🙂
Too many people have this concept that God is a terrible God and that we must always live in fear, never knowing what he will do next. This is based on a very wrong and poor concept of who God is and what his character is like.
So for me, the fear of the Lord and living in love go hand in hand. They belong to each other! When we live in love we do not live in fear. Love has the affect of casting off our fear, banishing it from our lives. Fear comes when we do not understand, experience or know what love is. This type of fear is not what the bible calls the fear of the Lord. The biblical expression of the fear of the Lord is based in love and expresses love. Now the love I am talking about is the love that comes from God. I am not talking about some emotional feeling that we might experience. The love I am talking about is the love defined in 1 Corinthians 13.
So, what about my last example of a biblical oxymoron – salvation is free but it costs you your life?
If something is free then it should not cost anything because it is FREE! So, what does it mean that it costs us our life? To answer this we need to understand the nature of the new life that God desires to bring to us, have us receive and live out.
There are different passages which express things like – “my ways are not your ways” declares the Lord. Or, “I use the foolish things to confound the wise.” Now, it’s very hard to understand these concepts unless you understand God. It seems absolutely ridiculous to one who doesn’t believe in God or that God even exists that there is even a God out there somewhere! It flies in the face of human logic or reason. It is something that cannot be understood with human reasoning. That why we have what we call faith.
You see, to accept something as ridiculous as there being a God who loves us and forgives us and who could actually create the world in six days requires us to look foolish in the eyes of man (or human thinking); it requires faith that there is such a God. It means, in a sense, that we have to be willing to put aside human reasoning and logic and accept what God says as being truth. There will always be a battle for our hearts, for what we give our affections to. That battle is real for us who call ourselves Christians. That’s why Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters! We have to come to a point where we will love one and hate the other for we cannot keep straddling the fence wanting the best of both worlds.
This is what I believe it means that it will cost us everything. It’s that willingness to make the choice of how I live my life. I cannot buy my salvation nor can I earn it. It is a gift, which is why it is free and all I need to do is accept it. To live that life is a totally different issue! There will be choices to make in how I live that life. Do I live it for Jesus or for myself? The truth is, I cannot have it both ways.
It’s like my parents give me a car as a present (they didn’t do this by the way!). I can thank them profusely for it, walk around it and admire it and enjoy just looking at it. But, if I’m going to drive it I must first hop into the car, then put the key into the ignition, start the motor, engage the gears and drive off. Now, when I start to drive I must remember many things – there are laws, rules of the road that if I do not keep them or observe them then several things can happen. I could end up having an accident because I was careless or driving too fast. I could have an accident because I didn’t observe the red light and stop. I could be booked for excessive speeding and actually lose my license.
You see, there are certain “responsibilities” to being the owner of a car and driving it on the roads. As much as I don’t like these responsibilities they go with owning a car.
For me, being a Christian is very similar to this. If I want to accept God free gift of salvation and become a follower of Jesus then there are certain “responsibilities” I must accept if I’m going to accept this “position” of being a follower. Accepting this gift does NOT make me any better than someone who has chosen not to accept it. It simply means I have accepted the gift and so made a choice to live accordingly.
This gift requires that I die to myself, to my own selfish ambitions, desires and wants. It means that I choose to submit to Gods ways in what I do. It involves learning to think differently, act differently and live differently to the norm. I make choices that are based on the gift I have received – because I love God and want to please him.
I have discovered in my journey of life that God’s way is not my way, that his ways are so much higher than my ways and that when I chose to stay in the realm of my human thinking that often I will make decisions which are not wise in the eyes of God – even if I think they are pretty smart decisions!! Human wisdom and Godly wisdom are very different to each other. Godly wisdom comes from walking in the fear of the Lord (according to the definition I shared above!) while earthly wisdom comes primarily through the attaining of much knowledge and this comes mainly through learning/education.
Now please understand this – I am NOT saying that earthly wisdom is of no value for that is not true. We have many brilliant minds, people who totally reject God or the concept of God. Their brilliance has come through their learning and the application to acquiring greater knowledge through their education. We have advanced significantly because of these brilliant minds.
In fact, there is incredible power in unity – when minds are put together for the purpose of trying to discover, advance, etc. The Bible says that nothing would be impossible when people live in this way. I also believe that God wants us to use our minds and to be able to think for ourselves. He does not want us to follow him like zombies!
My point is, that to live a life as a follower of Jesus often requires us to live in a “foolish” way when viewed by those who are learned and wise because what we do often does not make sense to the human mind.
I believe one reason why it is this way is because God does not want us to rely on our own human wisdom or reasoning. To do so would mean that we could live our lives without God, work things out on our own and reason things away. Mind you, I think many Christians try and live their life this way! Living this way would then totally contradict the point in us being followers of Jesus and our expressing our need of and dependency upon him.
I believe that we are made up of three parts – body, soul and spirit. We all have physical bodies that feel pain, that bleed when cut, that need feeding, that need exercise to keep fit, that gets tired and needs rest etc. We also have a soul, that part of us that we call our mind, will and emotions. It’s where we feel things, make choices, think through things, etc. We also all have a spirit and it is our spirit that is able to commune and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. It is actually when our spirit engages with the Holy Spirit that we have the capacity to gain this wisdom that is not human wisdom. The human wisdom operates out of the mind but Godly wisdom operates out of our spirit. That’s why it is key to engage with God through our spirit and not through our mind. (Sounding very mystical, aren’t I!)
I trust this is making sense to you.
So, in conclusion I do want to say that though these three “concepts” appear to be oxymoron’s they actually are not! They actually back each other up and support each other and empower us to live lives which honor others and glorifies God. This is the kind of life I want to live.
It’s over to you now… What do you think? What about you? Can you think of anything that could be considered an oxymoron in the bible?