Two Sides, Same Coin
In the spirit, I saw a coin spinning on its axis. As I watched it spin and spin and spin, I heard the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart:
Two sides, same coin.
I had been seeking the Lord for understanding. I was confused. It seemed like every time I turned around, men and women of God—sincere lovers of Jesus whom I greatly loved and respected—were contradicting each other with their views. Issues that had once seemed black and white were suddenly cloaked in gray. I wanted truth! One would speak with passion and authority on a particular issue and there would be a powerful witness of the Spirit on the words spoken. Then another would speak—with a diametrically opposed view of the very same issue—and again there would be a powerful witness of the Spirit.
How was this possible? God never contradicts himself—right?
Two sides, same coin.
Or put another way, one body with many members. And we don’t all function the same way.
This became my answer. While it is absolutely true that God never contradicts himself and he never contradicts his Word, it is also true that our current understanding of his ways and of his Word are woefully lacking. God never contradicts himself, but he definitely (and frequently) contradicts our current limited understanding.
I love the song by Kate Miner, “Jesus, You are Holy.” There is a line in that song that always struck a chord with me, but in recent years it has become lodged in my heart and spirit at a much deeper level: Joy and sorrow, deeply mingled. Yes! The glory of the cross!
Joy and sorrow. Polar opposites, yet both real. Both true. Both existing at the same time. Neither higher nor more true than the other. This simple line perfectly illustrates a concept that I have come to believe that we, the global Church of Jesus Christ, must apprehend if we are ever to walk in true unity of heart, mind, and spirit. We must embrace the mystery of the paradox—the strange reality that truth is often held in the tension that exists between precepts that appear, at least on the surface, to contradict each other. There are concepts that contradict each other in our finite minds and finite world, but those same concepts exist without contradiction in God’s infinite kingdom.
If we’re honest, most of us are pretty attached to our opinions and to our pet doctrines. We tend to think the things we are most passionate about are the things that are most important. We like to think the truths we have personally apprehended are the superior truths. What we’re learning, everyone should be learning. If we’ve received breakthrough in a certain area by doing “a,b,c” then everyone should do that and they will have breakthrough too! Well, maybe. But then again—maybe not.
Some people have tapped into the joy of heaven and are great cheerleaders who love to rejoice with those who rejoice. But weeping with those who weep? Not so much. After all, shouldn’t everyone just be thankful for what they have and be positive? Why are some people so heavy-hearted when God is so good? Others are filled with deep compassion and gladly come alongside to comfort and weep with those who are brokenhearted and suffering. But those same people often look upon those with light, merry hearts as being shallow and insensitive. How can you rejoice when so many people are hurting? Which is true?
On and on it goes. Many focus on apprehending the power of the resurrection that is ours in Christ; others seek to know the deep intimacy of sharing in his suffering. Some have tapped into the amazing freedom of living under grace; others willingly give themselves as bond-slaves for the sake of others. I know many whose mandate is to see the reality of the atonement manifested in the healing of sick and broken human bodies; I know many others who believe that healing of the heart and soul is of greater importance. Many contend for the “suddenly’s” of God—divine encounters that bring change in an instant; others believe that quiet perseverance in tried and true disciplines of faith is the only sure way of staying the course.
Entire movements place preeminence upon study of the written Word of God; other movements upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Some see his kingdom coming “on earth as it is in heaven” in ever-increasing measure; others have a fervent urgency to prepare the Church for the darkness coming upon the earth. Some feel called to “be”—others called to “do.” Some fervently and persistently ask, seek, and knock and are the “violent who take the kingdom by force;” others rest and wait patiently for the Lord. And let’s not forget that granddaddy paradox of them all: Those who passionately believe God exercises absolute sovereign control over every detail of life on the planet; and those who just as passionately believe in the right and responsibility of man to choose his own path.
These are deep and complex issues that have been debated by brilliant minds throughout the ages. Of course, each of these “sides” reveal a facet of the truth, but truth is only complete when considered in the whole. And, once again, only God sees the whole picture. Anyone who believes they have simple pat answers that tie all these concepts together with a nice neat bow, or conversely, anyone who believes there is a version of truth that holds to some of these precepts and discards others, has not honestly and thoughtfully considered the issues. To complicate things further, some of us will relate more to different sides of the coin in different seasons of life, but just because we change seasons, doesn’t mean everyone we know changes along with us! Sometimes we won’t be on the same page with everyone else, but that does not necessarily mean someone is on the wrong page. It simply means we’re different. Our finite minds have trouble with that concept. We want things to be either right or wrong. Sometimes they are either one or the other—but often they are not.
We will never understand it all. And because we don’t, our attitude toward those with opinions, experiences, passions, and callings different from our own, should consistently be one of love and grace. Does that mean I’m saying everything is relative and there is no such thing as absolute truth? I am not implying that at all. What I am saying is that our current understanding of truth is always limited. We want to boil truth down to mere precepts. But Jesus himself will always be the Truth—and he is much more than a set of precepts.
Only Jesus walked the paradox perfectly. He told us to enter by the narrow gate and I am convinced that truth held in tension is the narrow gate. We tend to think our black and white ideals represent the narrow path, but in reality that is a very broad road that has led to much destruction and division within the body of Christ. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and there are only a few who find it” (Matt. 7:14). The key to that gate is humility and love.
We don’t all start at the same place. We don’t all have the same advantages and disadvantages. We don’t have the same temperaments and passions. We don’t all live in the same culture and we didn’t grow up in the same environment. We don’t have the same abilities, the same gifts, or the same calling …
So how on earth can we possibly expect faith and faithfulness to look the same on each of us?