An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear side by side. Some well-known examples are
Then there’s my personal favourite (sincere apologies to any hard-working An Post employees): Postal service.
People often cite apparent biblical contradictions as evidence to dismiss the existence of God or the validity of a biblical worldview: God is just, but also merciful? Is He schizophrenic, or what? Or how about this one: we’re given free will but God, according to scripture, has somehow determined beforehand who and who will not be saved. Impossible! The biggest contradiction is probably us – that’s you and me. We’re flawed and messed up, yet somehow we’re a living, imperfect example of the message of Jesus. We’re God’s plan A for spreading the Good News and there doesn’t seem to be a plan B. Go figure.
That’s it: there’s stuff we just cannot figure out. Lots of stuff, everywhere. Perhaps the kind of Christianity I practice has relied too heavily on certainty, on empirical evidence.
Maybe it has bowed too easily at the altar of a pseudo-scientific something-or-other that has to be proven. Don’t get me wrong: there is evidence, both ample and solid, for the existence of Jesus in history, for the reliability of the New Testament documents and the veracity of the the eyewitness accounts of the life and words of Jesus and those around Him. I’ve spent a lot of time chasing down this stuff to satisfy my own evidence-based curiosity. But I’ve discovered many folks are just not that interested; they’d rather see a life that’s remarkable, or be cared about or loved in some unexpected way. I also think most people sort of know the real thing when they encounter it.
Instead of getting stuck in a quagmire of seeming contradiction, why not embrace some mystery? Life is full of mystery; sometimes we marvel at it, but sometimes accept it uncritically. It’s perfectly obvious that people can be both cruel and kind; that’s pretty mysterious. We discipline our children for their own good and because we love them, even though the discipline is no fun for them or for us. We’re imperfect in many ways but God seems nonetheless pleased to use us as His ambassadors.
Get a load of II Corinthians 5.19-21
God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them
And he has committed to us the word of reconciliation
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us;
We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
It’s inescapable: God has appointed you as His ambassador. It’s entirely possible that you represent him in a neighbourhood, or a workplace, or on your local soccer or GAA pitch, where you may be the only believer in Christ anyone has ever met. It’s a high privilege – and occasionally terrifying, I confess – to be charged with such a task. Especially if you, like me, don’t have it all figured out. Our ambassadorial duties have to be carried out while we’re working things out ourselves, asking questions, and perhaps even behaving in some ways that don’t reflect well upon God, or upon us. If you ask me, it’s the ultimate oxymoron.
In spite of all that, God seems willing – maybe even desperate – to use you and me just as we are, to grow us in our effectiveness for Him. II Chronicles 16.9 informs us that the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the whole earth, that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. We don’t have to be perfect, but merely willing participants. Are you willing?