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Published Date: November 9, 2011

Published Date: November 9, 2011

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Cover of "Created to Thrive".

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Paradox of Faith

Have you ever wondered why the Bible remains a best-seller? After all, the teachings of Scripture can be downright unappealing. This is never more the case than in the words and deeds of Jesus. The gospels, for example, make it clear that each human being, regardless of their upbringing, accomplishments, or fine intentions is spiritually bankrupt and in need of salvation. Furthermore, despite our rebirth in Christ, becoming holy is arduous work. And, throughout our lives we are called to some very unpleasant efforts in our relationships, like turning the other cheek, forgiving the offenses of others, going an extra mile, loving our neighbor as ourselves (whether or not they are lovable!), giving our cloaks away, and more! Now, I ask you, why is this book a best-seller?

If you’ve been around Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you realize that there is a paradox in these seemingly impossible commands. For example, we find that in casting our bread upon the water when we give of our resources, even though small, they actually return to us in some unexpected and manifold way. Every time you extend yourself to others, even when exhausted, you find that something deep within you is refreshed and restored. While Scripture asks us to store our riches in heaven, instead of on Earth, in doing so, we also discover that the more we give away, strangely, the more we seem to have to give away again. The paradox of faith runs so entirely counter to any culture in history. It consistently challenges us where humanity has been so often misguided—that in caring for others, we too, are nurtured.

Perhaps this is why Scripture remains a best-seller, that in trusting the teachings of the Bible we experience the expansive joy that comes not from saving our lives, but, paradoxically, from giving them away as Christ did. The creator and ruler of heaven and earth came not to be served, but to serve sacrificially. Christ’s leadership was not control, power, domination, or entitlement, which humans so often pursue. Rather, as Jesus said in Matthew 20:25, to be great is to be last, to be first is to become the servant of all—as he was. As we join Christ in serving others, we encounter, ironically, a release from the toxic and self-minimizing need to hold power over others, to be first, and to be served.

In my work at CBE, I have had the pleasure of working beside our founders and members—Christians who have walked many miles with Jesus, so much so that they embody the paradox of faith in ways that inspire me each day. They have imbibed the teachings of Scripture and have allowed the Spirit in the Text to shape and change them into radical people who embrace leadership as service and service as leadership; that in giving to others we receive even more. The largeness of their spirits is dazzling! I remember one member who, after giving sacrificially to CBE, said, “You will never know how much joy it brings me to give and serve CBE.” This is indeed, the paradox of faith. And, it is because of so many like her that CBE is able to give generously to others asking for resources on biblical equality in their contexts and languages.