The more I think and write and read about God, the more I discover beautiful paradoxes. But I think I have found my favourite paradox. Here it is:
When we look at God we can see his goodness and holiness. This makes our sin and mess look worse and worse. This helps us realise how offensive and wrong it is to treat God as anything less than God. God has shown us nothing but love and mercy and we treated him as nothing. But now we can look at our own sin and mess in the knowledge that God has loved and forgiven us. This shows us more and more the holy and good nature of God. This in turn makes us realize that though our continued mess is bad, we are no longer stuck in it. Which again helps us realize how good and holy God is…
It’s not so much a paradox as a tension between our nature and God’s nature. Or maybe it’s a tension between the two parts of our nature: made in God’s image but fallen and broken. Or maybe it’s a tension between the two parts of God’s nature: perfect and just, but gracious and merciful.
Often we embrace one part of this paradox without seeing the full picture. For example, we become increasingly aware of our own mess and sinfulness, and fixate and dwell on it until it consumes us. But when we do this, we have forgotten the other half of the equation: that while our mess goes deep, God’s goodness and mercy go deeper still. God’s goodness knows no bounds. Our capacity for sin cannot beat God’s capacity for forgiveness. His capacity for love cannot be beaten by our capacity for mess.
Or we know and delight in God’s goodness, celebrate and luxuriate in his mercy, but forget that goodness and light always show up the darkness and sin in our lives. We eagerly follow God’s promise of forgive without examining what we need to be forgiven of, and so continue in the sin and mess. Acknowledging God’s goodness in its full extent can only come when we acknowledge our sin and mess in its full extent.
This isn’t easy or straightforward at all (paradoxes usually aren’t). Finding the balance of viewing our own sin and God’s goodness with total honesty might be the work of a lifetime. More and more I’m realizing that though yes, we are here on earth to share God’s forgiveness with those who don’t know it, there’s also an element of growing and wrestling with God’s nature and the complexity of the Gospel that takes a lifetime. But the more we understand and know God, the more we can show him to others clearly and honestly.
But there are days when I feel defeated by my mess. Though I know I am not stuck in it any longer, it is also very real and very present with me day to day. Sometimes it seems all consuming. These are the days when I need to look to God and look to his goodness and holiness and perfection. I don’t want to be caught in introspection and self examination. I want to look to God more and more, and focus on him in all his goodness and know there’s nothing I can do to lessen his love and forgiveness for me.