Episode 1. Paradox
Listen to the radio broadcast
Download audio file
Life is full of contradictions. Paradoxes. Things that are supposed to work but don’t. And mostly, because they’re too hard to confront, or we’re too busy to bother, we ignore them … while …
Life is full of contradictions. Paradoxes. Things that are supposed to work but don’t. And mostly, because they’re too hard to confront, or we’re too busy to bother, we ignore them…while all along they’re tearing us apart inside.
Our day to day lives are cluttered, jam packed full of paradoxes, contradictions. Boy meets girl, would be somewhere at the top of the list. That chemistry, that excitement, that joy, it’s hard wired. They get married and a few years later all of a sudden it gets hard, so hard in fact, that between forty and fifty percent of those marriages end up in divorce.
Paradox: silence can be deafening.
Paradox: doing nothing, after a while, becomes exhausting.
Paradox: shopping isn’t satisfying.
Paradox: …. The list just goes on, one after the other.
But you see most times we don’t think about them, most times we’re too busy. Life is just too complex to sort through those contradictions so we ignore them. We let the media tell us what to think and what to believe and somewhere below the surface, deep inside our spirit somewhere those paradoxes, those deep contradictions are tearing us apart. PARADOX.
I wonder whether it isn’t time to take stock, you know, have a paradox stock take. Let’s just stop and think for a minute: How satisfying is my life? How happy am I? If I died tonight, lying on my death bed, would I think, “Yep, it’s been a great life; I wouldn’t have changed a thing.” I suspect a very high proportion of people would have some very unsettling answers to those questions.
Let’s look through our lives.
Family: how rich are those relationships?
Our work and our vocation: how happy am I with what I do? How happy am I with the relationships at work?
My leisure time: Nights, do I just watch some re-run of something on the tube? Weekends, what do I do with my weekends? Holidays, are they satisfying or are they empty? I mean, do they live up to the brochures or do I get there and think, “Oh, I’m still not happy.”
Deep down in my spirit is everything right or is there something missing? In my behaviour, am I happy with that?
I was having lunch with a man not long ago, who was just justifying to me why he left his wife and two children for a woman fifteen years younger than him. Do you think he is happy? Then, there is just me, who I am. I look in the mirror, how happy am I with who I am? How happy are you with who you are?
Okay, there are some external negative factors that happen from time to time, things that are not our fault, things we can’t avoid, things we can’t do anything about. We all have those, yet somehow we’ve got good things happening in our lives but we’re not happy, they’re not working, something’s broken, we’re full over flying but something’s missing.
Even with those external negatives that happen, sometimes we have a sense of calling or destiny on our lives and they shouldn’t be there. My hunch is this is ringing a few bells out there. These paradoxes are going on and there are tensions inside that are pulling us apart. Something is missing, something is broken, something isn’t right. This is a paradox and most people just meander along through life and ignore it, because we’re too busy, because it’s too hard to confront. And what we don’t notice is that we think we are walking along a nice level piece of land but actually is going gradually, gradually downhill.
Most people would give anything, anything, to have a great life – “I would just die to have a life like that.” Stop. Have a look, have a think, what are the paradoxes going on in your life? What are the things that should be working that aren’t working? What are the things that should be blessing you, that aren’t blessing you? How many people are in marriages who aren’t being blessed by that relationship? ‘I would give anything, I would just die to have that sort of a life’, I can hear you say. That’s a paradox, but let’s unpack that sentiment for a minute. Would you, would you die? Would you die, to live?
Think of a smoker. Now, here’s the question. Smoking is killing a person. Most people, who smoke, will die of emphysema or cancer. The smoker is addicted, it’s costing him life, but will he pay the price now, to get the reward later? Depends on how much he wants to live. Will he die to that to get true life? When I say, “I would just die to have a great life”, would I? Would you? Are you and I prepared to take stock of those paradoxes and say, “That one and that one, I actually have to make some changes here. I actually have to do some stuff here”, because, here’s the crunch in the paradox stock take, there are things tearing people apart.
Smoking tears people apart. They know it’s bad, they know it’s killing them, they still do it. Do you think you can have a fun life like that? It’s not just smoking, it’s all the other things in our life that tear us apart inside, the things that we know well they’re just not quite right. Are we prepared to pay the cost? When we say I would just die to have a great life, would we?
There was a wealthy young man, he wasn’t satisfied, there was something missing, and for him, eternal life was the trigger and he walked up to Jesus, two thousand years ago, and he said, “What do I have to do, what do I have to do to get eternal life?” Now, this guy is rich … this guy is rich in a subsistence economy where most people were struggling to get enough wheat to eat. This guy is rich and something is missing, and he says to Jesus “What must I do?” And Jesus knew exactly what was going on.
So Jesus helps him to unpack the problem, he cuts right to the heart. Jesus says, “Look keep the commandments, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie.” And the young man says, “I’ve done all of that”, and listen to the words he says, he says – “but something is still missing”. What a paradox. “Well, if you want to get your life together,” says Jesus, “Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor and then come and follow me.”
Bang, finger right on the issue. Is Jesus saying we all need to be poor? No. You look at a whole bunch of people throughout the Bible and God blesses them and they become wealthy. Solomon, David, look there is a list as long as your arm. That’s not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is putting his finger on the one thing that is stopping this young man from having a great life because his wealth is binding him up, his sense of value is bound up in his wealth.
And Jesus says, “Look, go get rid of that and I will give you wealth like you can’t believe, I’ll give you a spiritual wealth, I will give you a life, an eternal life you cannot imagine.” Jesus peels back the layers of the onion. What did the young man do? Well, when the young man heard it, he went away sad because he had great wealth.
There is a price to following Jesus Christ, not some fairy floss, luvvy duvvy, happy ending kind of story. There is a price and that price is laying things down, that price is taking the things that we know are ruining our lives and laying them down and changing. And it turns out; the price is laying down the very thing that is ruining our lives just like the smoker.
You know I used to hear this word “repent” and think, “Oh what rubbish”, but Jesus puts his finger on the things that are ruining our lives and calls us to an abundant life. I would die to have a life like that. Would you, would you really? Are you really prepared to pay the price? The rest of this week we will be looking at that question from a different perspective.