Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Whatever you think about the observance of Lent, it is helpful to have some occasion to remember that the good news of Jesus Christ leaves us standing contradicted.  I don't mean that we stand conflicted - though of course we do, each human being divided in innumerable ways against himself, and Christians experiencing the conflict between the old man and the new.  What I mean is that God contradicts us.  The good news of Jesus is also the news that God has spoken against our being and action, revealing it to be utter sin.  And because it is God who speaks, his powerful contradiction actually takes away and lays aside that sinful person, creating in its place the new person who stands in faith in Christ.

To approach it from a slightly different angle, sometimes we can lose the fact that salvation, when it occurs, is totally against the run of play.  It does not follow from anything that has gone before - no human thing, anyway.  None of the events of history led up to or caused Jesus Christ.  When light shines in the darkness, it has not in some way sprung from the darkness itself; someone has intervened.  Perhaps most clearly and decisively, in the death of Christ we see the putting to death of all human possibility.  It is clear that the cross is the end of the story.  That the resurrection follows - that death is contradicted and life brought in in its place - that is miracle.  It is the same in any individual experience.  There may be all sorts of things which in my human experience preceded my coming to faith in Christ, but you could hardly say that they caused it.  When it comes, it is always contradiction - gracious contradiction, but contradiction nonetheless - which sets aside even the apparently positive aspects of my fallen and broken self.

Of course, if you go deeper you'll find that the current was always flowing in this direction.  God does not contradict himself.  From eternity, this has been the destination - the resurrection of Christ, the life of humanity in him, my life (and yours?) caught up with him.  But we need to remember that everything we ever brought to the equation stood opposed to this direction of travel.  We, in so far as we could, contradicted God, and took up the cause of the Serpent ("you will not surely die").  And let's face it, we contradict him still.  A moments reflection shows that my life as a Christian is full of contradictions of the gospel.  My confessed beliefs and my behaviour, and the gap between them - the conflict I mentioned at the beginning - manifest something of that attempted contradiction.  I must be an acrobat, to talk like this and live like that.  Humanly speaking, everything points away from God, away from salvation, away from life.

So I will be remembering, during this Lenten season, that I stand contradicted.  And that is good news.

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