Untitled Sermon (43)
Paul Wishing to Be Cut off from Christ And then in , it’s almost as if a switch flips, and Paul goes negative. Verse 2
ESVthat I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
What happened to the unadulterated joy of ? Verse 3: I wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers. What? Paul is wishing that he could be accursed and cut off from Jesus if the unbelieving Jews of his day would believe in Jesus. It sounds admirable. But it seems like a contradiction to and even other places. …8
ESVIndeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
That sounds like Paul is contradicting himself. On one hand he is saying he will give up Jesus, if others would come to faith in him. And then he says, I consider everything to be a pile of garbage compared to knowing Jesus.
And embracing apparent contradictions will better equip you to love those who are grieving and to process grief yourself…because isn’t the death of a Christian the ultimate paradoxical apparent contradiction? They are with Jesus, free from pain, free from burdens, perfectly at rest and at joy. And yet they are gone. It seems so final. And the sadness of those left is palpable...
Bill Davis on the Loss of his Wife
I have an older pastor friend from seminary and his wife died and he and I were having a conversation about grief. And he told me that the memorial service was brutal, that his congregation saw him reduced to a pile of tears, and after the funeral his closest friends and family came to his home to console him. And he told me that like others he would go from laughing to crying. Some of you men have lost your wives in the past year or so. Unspeakable pain and loneliness. And so a woman he barely knew shows up at the door to pay her respects. She had attended the memorial service, maybe she was a marginal church member, he kind of knew her, kind of didn’t. And she says, I just praise Jesus that your wife is in Heaven, and I wonder why we would grieve and cry if we really believe she is dancing and singing in heaven. And he tried to believe the best and said, yeah, that’s true that she’s in heaven, she’s not with me and that makes me sad.
And the woman wouldn’t take the hint, and she said, you are a pastor, you of all people should know that we need to fight sadness at times like these and show we have strong faith. And he told me he looked at her kindly and said, “lady…if you think for a second that I am not going to deeply grieve the loss of my wife, then you should go knock on another door.”
In other words, explaining the pain and the problem of death and evil as apparent contradictions doesn’t take away the pain or the evil…or solve the problem.
So If God, Why Evil?
As I have been watching this past week unfold, it is interesting to hear the solutions that people are offering to the problem of mass shootings. One guy wrote:
I’m Curious. How many more big mass shootings will take place before society wants change? 10? 20? How many people have to die first? Perhaps it will take the majority of America having a loved one or someone they know die before change is enacted.
One of the students who witnessed the shooting said this:
“Please, take action. Ideas are great. Ideas are wonderful and they help you get reelected and everything,” David Hogg said on CNN as he looked straight at the camera. “But what's more important is actual action ... that results in saving thousands of children's lives. Please, take action.”
So for that side, we need to take action, make some new laws. There is a video floating around about Australia that they had 13 mass shootings from 1979-1996, and then they passed strict gun laws, they offered to buy back certain guns, and since then they haven’t had any mass shootings.
The other side responds this way…a quote from our President:
"The city of Chicago. What is going on in Chicago? There are those who say that Afghanistan is safer than Chicago, okay? What is going on? You know what's wrong with Chicago? Weak, ineffective politicians. Politicians that don't want to force restrictions and don't, and by the way, Chicago, -- for those of you that are gonna say, 'Guns, guns' -- Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the United States, okay? Just in case you were thinking about it. You know they immediately say, 'Oh, you're gonna take away.' Well, Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the United States.”
Or more theological, guns don’t kill people, men’s hearts kill people.
Here’s the problem with all of it...
If I Knew and Could Control and Did Nothing
Think about it...
If I KNEW there would be a school shooting, and I didn’t do EVERYTHING in my power to stop it, you would call me evil, or at least cowardly.
Taking it further...
If I not only knew about the planned shooting, but possessed the absolute POWER to easily STOP a school shooting, and I LET it happen anyway, so that my “own glory would be displayed” sometime in the infinite future, forget “apparent contradictions,” you would call me sick, delusional, evil, cruel, inhuman, unloving, not having an ounce of goodness, and even criminal.
But God not only knew about it, but could have stopped it and he didn’t. And you would have to say that God was actually present in those hallways during that shooting. Still...
Polar Opposite Truths
These are “apparent” contradictions, because even that which seems so obviously to be a contradiction related to God...somehow isn’t. One of the most important truths I have come to terms with is that great truths especially about God, usually have a polar opposite that is ALSO a great truth...without the truths becoming a contradiction, or minimizing one of God’s attributes.
Do you see on a practical thinking stand point how that approach helps when it comes to these confusing doctrines? It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. In our Western, enlightened minds, we want either/or. We want to explain it. The fact is that Western Civilization of the past 500 years especially is the first civilization in the history of the world to demand natural, logical explanations instead of embracing deep mystery.