Steve Schramm: 3 Unlikely Paradoxes Jesus Got Right

In the Bible we often find strange truths that seem, well, counterintuitive (if not contradictory).

In fact, the reason many skeptics disregard the claims of the Bible is for precisely this reason!

We shouldn’t find seeming contradictions, difficult tensions, and unlikely paradoxes, they say.

But there is something interesting about God’s Word. It is a supernatural book—much more than black ink on white paper, so the saying goes.

Chuck Missler, a recently-deceased and beloved Bible teacher, used to say that to happen upon these surface “contradictions” in the Bible was a great blessing—these were an indication, he would say, that God was getting ready to teach you a profound truth.

In reading the words of Jesus, I’ve identified at least three of these truths that are significant. So significant, in fact, that grasping them could radically change everything about us.

#1. Humble Yourself, Then Be Exalted

Our culture is one bent on self-glorification. Even when we do things for others, often, it is for purposes of self-recognition.

This problem of pride is nothing new; of course, we first encountered it in the garden of Eden! The Doctrine of Original Sin informs us that with Adam, sin and death entered the world (Romans 5:12). And ever since, pride and self-centeredness lurks around every corner.

But Jesus modeled servant leadership.

According to him, it is only when one lays down his own selfish desires—perhaps even his own life—that true exaltation takes place (Luke 14:11; John 15:13). The extraordinary thing about our Savior is that he modeled and demonstrated that which he commanded. In other words, he “practiced what he preached.”

By giving his own life for ours, and then receiving exaltation from the Father (Acts 5:31), this paradox has been clearly manifested.

Unlikely as it may seem, it appears the only real way to get ahead is by serving others. As digital marketers who have latched onto the effectiveness of this tactic say in today’s economy, “selling…is serving!”

#2. Love Yourself, Then Love Others

Growing up, I remember learning an acronym that was supposed to help me prioritize my relationships: J.O.Y.–Jesus, Others, You. Perhaps you’ve heard of this?

It was in this order that I was supposed to love. On the surface, one can see how this makes sense. But upon deeper reflection, I came to realize that I’m not sure it’s correct.

Consider Jesus’ exchange with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:36-39:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

It’s clear there is no greater commandment than to love God. But then, we are supposed to love our neighbor. How? As ourselves.

Let me ask you a question: What if you hate yourself?

Though sad, it is true that a large number of the population (even Christians!) live utterly dissatisfied lives.

There are many reasons for this discontentment, no doubt. Just one example is the enormous rise in the use of screens. As they become more prevalent in daily activity, so the epidemic of unhappiness increases.

To that end, one researcher writes,

In our study, we analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders that’s been conducted annually since 1991.

Every year, teens are asked about their general happiness, in addition to how they spend their time. We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier. However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy.

In other words, every activity that didn’t involve a screen was linked to more happiness, and every activity that involved a screen was linked to less happiness. The differences were considerable: Teens who spent more than five hours a day online were twice as likely to be unhappy as those who spent less than an hour a day.

A possible point of convergence is the rise of comparison living–“keeping up with the Joneses”–to use familiar parlance.

While, as young children and teens, the dependence on screens may seem to be innocent exploration into the world of fantasy (video games, etc.), eventually, it becomes a means by which adults learn to compare their own lives and possessions against others’.

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Source: Christian Post