Salvation comes through faith alone. This is a basic concept of Christian faith and was the cornerstone of the Protestant reformation 500 years ago. Yet, as German theologian and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us, grace without response is cheap. God’s mercy compels us to act. How are we to resolve the tension between the call to simply believe and the call to do something about it?
We tend to look for the satisfaction of a single answer: left or right, pro or con, blue or red. We want one idea to be right and the other idea wrong. The problem is, life isn’t always so clean cut. There are many instances in which it seems impossible to resolve competing claims. The life of following Jesus resists easy either/or thinking. Rather than insisting on one or another, what if we began to think of the big questions differently? In every big question, don’t just look to the usual positions. Look for Jesus. When you find the cross, you find the crux of the matter, and you will experience the fullness of the Christian life.
One of the most paradoxical of all of Jesus’ teachings is this: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” How can we lose life by finding it, or find life by losing it? Consider: we spend our lives trying to find the “good life,” yet never achieve the fulfillment we seek. Jesus invites Nicodemus to be born again, but in order to be born again, we must die to the old self first.
Somehow, we Christians have come to believe the idea that when we follow Jesus, our life should be free from trouble. Yet Jesus, nor the Scriptures, ever make such a promise. In fact, the Bible tells us that to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven, including both mourning and laughing. What if the full Christian life includes both sorrow and joy - sometimes at the same time?
Is God all-powerful or all-loving? The presence of evil in the world would seem to nullify one or the other: either God is all-powerful but allows sin, and therefore doesn’t fully love us, or God is all-loving but lacks power to remove sin. Since it is hard to reconcile the two, we tend to minimize one at the expense of the other. How are we to resolve the tension between a God who can do anything and a God who is pure love?