Firstly just an interesting bit in the OT that I never noticed. This story is from Numbers 16:41-50, just after the LORD had destroyed Korah and his followers for their disobedience:
The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the LORD’s people,” they said.
But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the LORD said to Moses, “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.” So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the mist of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.
That has to be one of the most awesome pictures of Christ in the OT! A priest who rushes to save a sinful, grumbling people, making atonement for them in the face of the righteous judgement, literally standing between life and death for his people. Of course this is just an image, the actual sacrificing atonement of Christ demanded no less than the death of the priest as well.
Now completely separately, I’ve been thinking recently about dualism. Not in the conventional sense of good versus evil, but in personalities. Why is it that nice people are often incompetent (like me), while competent people are usually jerks? Why is it that to be successful and wealthy often means being unhappy, and being happy often means living in relative modesty?
I have been thinking of it personally too: I see myself as a very ‘nice’ person, who does anything for anyone without a hint of regret. But the minute I sense I am being taken advantage of, I grow incredibly bitter. So I thought, maybe being nice means being a doormat, and standing up for yourself means being a bit of a jerk. A lot of people can seem to balance being nice and not being a doormat, but that continues to elude me.
I’m not going to write on and say that I’ve found a magical antidote (I haven’t), but this made me think: remember Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith? Remember his line to Anakin, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes“? When I first heard it I thought it was so much liberal, hippie drivel, about relativism and all that. But actually maybe this line (way out of context) is not as unbiblical as I thought?
Christ’s ability to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable things has amazed me for a while now. Some people see justice and mercy as two different sides of the scale, but Christ brought about full justice and mercy on the cross, dying as an atoning sacrifice (justice) and in so doing sparing us eternal death (mercy). Two separate things made one, no either/or there.
Similarly Christ united seemingly irreconcilable Godhood and man-hood into one. He showed us how to pay taxes fully to Caesar and to God. The greatest, in his eyes, must also be the least. He united a holy God and sinful mankind. He is, as the song goes, a Lion and a Lamb. He is a lamb that appears slain, but also a conquering King on horseback. There are many other examples.
Now this is not to say that Christianity is about dualism – absolutely not! There are many examples in the Bible of ‘one-ness’: The LORD is supreme, there is none other like Him. Sin can only result in death. The only way to eternal life is through Christ. So in this sense, there are absolutes.
But it still seems amazing that there are also paradoxes in the Bible, things that seem irreconcilable and yet were reconciled. No absolutes – no absolutely this or absolutely that. We are sinners for the rest of our days on earth, and yet we are at the very same time, fully forgiven children, fully saints. Maybe when the Kingdom comes and everything is perfect, then paradoxes will no longer be required. But in this fallen world, paradoxes still amaze.
So I still don’t know how to be dignified and still self-sacrificing. But maybe one day Christ will show me how.