The denial of contradictions (within our experience, the Bible, spiritual community, etc) can produce hesitant, fearful, uncertain, even spiritually neurotic Christians. We hear opposing stories of the same God and are expected to embrace them without doubt or trepidation. “Just believe” is the catch all phrase, the simple answer to complicated questions.
The story of God in the Jewish and Christian Bible is messy and complicated, non-linear and contradictory. If we could at least begin to admit as much we can enter the muck to discover the truth for ourselves. We can ask ourselves honestly (without the aid of friends and family, pastors, theologians, scholars, experts): which God is it?
The God who is found only by few or who holds all. The God who is angry or the God who is loving. The God who excludes or the God who includes. The God who judges or the God who saves. The God who told his people to kill Canaanite women and children, or the God who wants all to know him.
For me, much of the contradiction finds, if not resolution, a loose unity in Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the flesh and blood word and image of God to humankind. With a nod to the context and subjectivity of historical narrative, Jesus shows us who God really is, what he is really like, and all else before and after is subject to him (the Bible, our churches, our experiences, our beliefs). Yes, some of Jesus’s words and actions are difficult, but he at least gives us a starting point. Ultimately, Jesus stands on love. This, I can live with. If I am wrong about many things, if I stray a little here and there, if I go too far in love and grace and inclusion and acceptance, I’d like to think I’m doing so out of a desire to follow Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was not soft in his proclamations. They were divisive, then and now. Some of them are still difficult for me. (Yet I would argue they are difficult and divisive because of his inclusion rather than exclusion.) But when I see how he loved those on the outside (religiously, socially, economically, culturally, ethnically), I am convinced I can start where he started, I can follow where he leads. And even if I’m wrong in certain convictions and beliefs and actions, what’s the worst I’ll hear when my day comes?
“You loved too much; you showed too much grace; you were too inclusive; you accepted too many.” If these words come to pass, I can live with them.
I will always err on the side of love, grace, inclusivity, acceptance. I believe Jesus stands with those on the fringes, on the outside, and I want to stand there with him.