Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, July 2

Hold the tension

Our preacher on Sunday was talking about the balance between working hard and resting. In the sense that on the one hand we have to ‘let go and let God’, while on the other hand the imperatives of the gospel are that we should spare no effort to save the lost. He was talking about how these two truths appear to be opposite to one another. And then, holding his hand forward, palm vertical like the prow of a ship cutting a path through the water, he waved that had side to side to illustrate that “we can not cut a Christian ‘floppy middle line’ – we have to take those two opposites as they are and hold them in tension”

Which is interesting, because that is almost exactly what I have been thinking recently.

Too often, as Christians, when we face such opposites within our faith, we either have a war with major casualties and bloodletting (or at least mutual excommunications) or else we fudge a compromise where neither side is happy.

I think we need to do more of this ‘holding things in tension’

Obviously there’s the Trinity itself – three persons but definitely ONE God.

Then there is predestination and freewill.

Then there is suffering – the work of an evil Satan under the command of a holy God.

More controversially, the equality of genders but the maleness of Church leadership????

Perhaps we should affirm that priesthood is male while continuing to ordain women – holding two opposing doctrines in tension. (Don’t quote me as holding any of these positions on this I’m just musing theoretically)

What I’m really leading to is homosexuality.

We have denominations – seeking pure holiness through the Scriptures – that avow that marriage is between opposite genders for complementarity to reflect the image of God. And we have denominations – seeking pure justice through the Scriptures – that avow that we are all equal and have equal sanction to marry for love.

There’s no scope for compromise, but do we have to have one doctrine or the other? Does one have to win, while the other loses? Do we have to have public wars and excommunications? Can either of these churches represent the wholeness of God? Can a church be pure while perpetrating injustice? Can a church truly be just while sanctioning marriages that [may] fall outside of God’s perfect will? Can any one church, in its monochromatic unity, truly represent a multi-faceted God?

I believe we need to hold the tension. We need to have unchanging traditional churches upholding unchanging traditional doctrines, sticking exclusively to heterosexual marriage. We also need to have flexible churches that look in the mirror and say ‘sorry, we got that wrong’ and adjust as necessary, willing to marry same-sex couples. We have this already, but what we don’t have is mutual respect or the understanding that unity does not mean uniformity. We can hold radically different and opposing doctrines while still respecting one another as genuine expressions of God’s heart. We don’t have to understand it. We just have to hold the tension.

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