I have always enjoyed paradoxes, the blending of opposites to make something new. I see paradoxes constantly around me but particularly in the nature of God. Especially when I do not understand the logic of His being.
I was taught that God was real and listening so I have always thrown my questions in His face. My prayers as a child rarely felt innocent or cute, instead they were challenging, curious, and sometimes angry. I have been confused and hurt by an omnipotent God who changed my life by causing my family to move to another country.
I don’t get You, I confessed into the night sky where I half-believed and half-doubted that God was looking down at me, I don’t understand what You want to do with me. I waited for an answer, a sign in the stars but I didn’t have the answer I wanted. This is the question that I’ve always had. How do I make sense of a paradoxical God? How can I understand Him?
I describe God as paradoxical because that is what He often seems to me. An enigma of characteristics, He has appeared simultaneously welcoming and intimidating to me. I don’t understand this God, who proclaims both life and hellfire. Then of course, we make the mistake of emphasising one characteristic over the other, making up our own little Jesus that we like best. I don’t buy purely the hellfire and brimstone Jesus or the hippie-love-everyone Jesus. God cannot be man-made and put into a box. God does not claim just one of these characteristics but both of them.
How can the concepts of love and judgement be reconciled in the nature of God and be called perfect?
Firstly, I’ve realised that we misunderstand judgement as undeserved and unneeded when in actuality it is very much needed. Judgement is needed for justice, and we all recognise justice. We recognise our needs for justice when there are school shootings, racial hate and violence, terrorist attacks, and immigrant children taken away from their parents. We scream and demand consequences for these awful things.
The thing to recognise is that God demands these consequences too. What is uncomfortable about God’s judgement is that God judges on His standard and not our own; and His standard includes us. We are less likely to scream and demand consequences for ourselves.
Yet, the beauty of the gospel also emphasises the other side of this paradox and that is radical love. For God so loved the world that He gave His own Son to take our place in the judgement seat (John 3:16). God is a God of justice and mercy and we need both characteristics from Him as human beings.
Funny that I only understand this when I look at Him in the light of what He has revealed to me in the gospel. I need a basic understanding of what He says before I can understand who He is.
Secondly, I’ve realised when it comes to understanding all of the other paradoxes is that to know Him, I also need to accept that I will not fully understand Him until eternity (Isaiah 55: 8-10). My human understanding is limited while God’s understanding is infinite. I perceive the paradoxes in this God because I cannot fully understand His nature, not because they are necessarily contradictory to His character.
Funny that I only find out my answers when I trust more in this seemingly paradoxical God and trust less in confusing and conflicting me.
Besides, paradoxes are wonderful things.