Tension. Nobody likes tension. If you are like me, you hear tension and think of those uncomfortably confrontations that arise at work, between friends, or sometimes even between family members. I think of those moments that I know there is going to be a disagreement that may lead to an argument or at least some uncomfortable interactions for a while.
It turns out that there is another kind of tension though. A kind that doesn’t need to be uncomfortable (although it may be that way sometimes). A kind of tension that is actually healthy. A kind of tension that I actually think Christians should, and actually need to, cling to in order to be everything that God has called them to be. To fulfill the great commission and make disciples of all nations. And, perhaps I’m mistaken, but I would guess that most Christians want to be all God wants them to be.
So, what is this tension? How do we find it? How do we hold on to it?
Well, I think the first thing we must do is to realize that sometimes when we face “option A” and “option B,” we need to look for an “option C.” Here’s what I mean. Some people will naturally tend to look at God’s grace, kindness, and mercy. But there are others who tend to look at God’s righteousness, his holiness, and his perfect justice. Is either party right or wrong? Of course not! They both recognize attributes of God, but they only select the God they want, and are, in a way, recognizing the God they would prefer instead recognizing God as HE is.
But I think we need to see God as neither one extreme nor the other, but that he is actually both.
While I don’t want to get into deep theological debate, nor do I have time to fully develop the idea here, maybe an example that people struggle with more frequently is the idea of “divine election.” The idea that either God “chooses” who will be saved, OR we have free will to “choose” whether or not we will accept Him. Again, I would like to answer yes to both sides of this debate. The Bible makes it clear that God “chooses” and that humans are responsible for the decisions they make.
While this idea of living in the tension isn’t universal, I think we need to at least consider it. We need to live in the tension and recognize that God is merciful but he’s also just. He’s the God who created the whole universe and the God that is in every seemingly miniscule detail.
When we recognize this truth, we have a chance to do what God has called us to. To live in the tension. To be Jesus’ hands and feet. To show people his love but call them to repentance. To live according to the law even though not bound by it. To pursue holiness not out of compulsion, but out of grace.
This is a tension that we, the church, need.