Thankful For the Tensions

This Biblical perspective which asserts that human responsibility and divine sovereignty are somehow intertwined without either being in any way compromised, is something that we must come to terms with even though it is beyond our powers of understanding. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan

The Christian life is filled with what I call healthy tensions, where we find ourselves seemingly suspended between two extremes, ever so careful not to lean excessively to one side or the other. Like a tight-rope walker, we find that living for Jesus involves balance, balance, balance! Theologically this is constantly the case. Take the subject of faith and works. We are saved by grace through faith, Paul writes to the Ephesians…it’s a gift of God. Yet, James writes in chapter 2 of his epistle that Abraham was justified by his works and that faith without works is dead. The truth isn’t found by asking which is correct….the truth is actually a “both/and” scenario where we are absolutely saved by grace through faith and that faith is absolutely seen in the works of the individual post conversion. How easy it is to wrongly begin condemning myself believing that my actions sustain my position of being “in Christ” one day, only to become apathetically inactive the next day because there is nothing I can do to be saved.

Bob Kauflin, in his book Worship Matters, speaks to the tensions that occur regularly in our corporate worship gatherings. Should our worship gatherings be reverent or celebratory? The answer is not a “yes/no” but a “yes/and.” Which should we be more concerned with: our feelings during worship or our theological soundness? Both! There can be theological soundness and dried up deadness with no attention to passion for God. There can also be high levels of spiritual fervor during worship gatherings yet the theological depth of a sugar spoon. We need both! We worship God as surpassingly transcendent, above all and totally “other” while also worshipping the God who is intimately immanent, as close as the mention of His name, who keeps all our tears in a bottle.

Jesus and His kingdom are full of these seemingly opposite extremes: the first is really last, the last is really first; Jesus was fully divine, yet fully human; the greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all. And, on and on and on.

Ah….healthy tensions. So important…so necessary.

I used to see these tensions as something evil, obviously due to the fact that I didn’t have complete understanding of the scriptures…a sign of immaturity and that I needed spiritual growth. I felt with enough “work”, I could move past these “unnecessary tensions”…move past the milk and onto the meat. They made my head hurt…they made me lose sleep….I felt my brain got into a cramp every time I encountered one. But, 25 years later, I’m learning that we don’t outgrow them. Rather, they become more prominent. I’ve learned that I don’t know as much as I once thought I did. Maturity, while I still have a long way to go, hasn’t brought a dismissal of spiritual tensions, but a call to accept them….not not only accept but embrace them!

So, today, I’m thankful for the tensions…the aspects of God and His word that I must, as Goldsworthy says, come to terms with even though it is beyond my powers of understanding. It’s been in that “coming to terms” that I have found a place of trust and faith in a God that sees what I don’t see and knows what I can’t possibly know…which to me is the essence of faith in the first place.

Happy Thanksgiving!




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