He's a walking contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home
There's a lot of wrong directions on that lonely way back home—Kris Kristofferson,
The Pilgrim, Chapter 33
We’re curious creatures—driven to and by the passions that can overwhelm our senses of reason and good judgement. Once lit, the fuses of our passion seemingly have to burn all the way to the blasting cap, and from there the chemical contents being held under pressure explode, spectacularly—often with devastating effects.
Even more confounding, it seems the opposing passions balance us out. We temper anger with contentment, love with disdain, greed with charity, and peacefulness with violence. We are chemical contents held under pressure in an imperfect quasi-equilibrium—until we aren’t (again with the spectacular explosions).
Why do we live like this? How do we make it through a day when we are a knotted ball of emotional yarn (often soaked in gasoline and set afire)? We rage at those we love most? We volunteer to help others and neglect the simplest of necessities for ourselves? We aspire to WWJD but secretly dream of WWCED (What Would Clint Eastwood Do?).
It's not really all that hard to understand—beyond the pitifulness of Falstaff’s mere mortal man assessment—our warring passions are the inevitable result of day-to-day living in the world while being named by Christ as, “not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16)
We study scripture, we spend time in prayer because we know that God is our refuge and our strength (Psalms 46:1), a mighty fortress according to Martin Luther. We know that Christ’s teachings of peace and love, of turning cheeks, giving coats, and walking extra miles are how we should live. How we actually live, though, is much closer to what the Apostle Paul described when he declared, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
This week, Pastor Nathan is going to throw us right in the discomforting nexus of opposing passions: a God who is the embodiment of Love acting in rageful vengeance. I can’t wait to hear what he has to teach us, because dear reader, this is a case where I can identify the component parts but cannot make the puzzle fit together into a picture that makes sense to me. I trust in the Lord—I bend my knee and my tongue confesses that Jesus is my Lord—and I beg forgiveness for my doubts—the ultimate, eternal contradiction of passion. I pray I don’t explode.