“Paradox” is a term used to describe contradictions in life. Living with paradoxes is part of the Christian life. It is a phenomenon that provides a useful tool for spiritual growth. As a Christian, living in this world but not being of this world requires an awareness of how polar opposite God’s perspective is from the world’s view. The concept of paradox gives us a clearer awareness of that great divide. One example of a paradox is the spiritual destructiveness of “trying to be good.” If we try to be good, we sink deeper in sin. This is a paradox, but if we are aware of it, we can make healthier choices in life and relationships.
“Trying to be good” is different from trying to be in God’s will. In relationships, it is different from loving others as ourselves. “Trying to be good” is a way we build up our own pride at the expense of others. When trying to be good is more important than considering the wishes or needs of the other person, we are relating by attempting to control the other.
The sin of trying to control others can occur when it’s more important for me to try to be a “good Christian” than to respect and love the other person in the relationship. If all I want from you is to give you the gospel without thinking or caring about who you are or what you can hear, it could be experienced as the opposite of loving. It is really my selfish needs that I’m caring for, not the needs of the other. This is not a loving process. It is using the other person for a self-serving benefit.
This process leads others away from us, the Church and possibly God. We can want the best for others, and in the name of Christ, we “do” to others. This is not always wrong. The difference appears subtle, but there is a major difference of the heart. It is sin when we engage in a “savior fantasy,” enjoying the role of being a savior instead of submitting to the one and only Savior. Taking a controlling role of savior supports the world’s perspective of self-focus and pride.
Surrendering is the key to loving. It is the opposite from being controlling, and as it releases control of the other, surrender creates freedom. The love of 1 Corinthians 13 comes from being a follower of Christ, in a surrendered, selfless gratitude. Love of our Savior is the motivation, not the pride of acting as someone’s savior.
Since the fall, we lost our communion with the Perfect and Holy One. In that separation, Adam chose to “know” good and evil, and became judge. We do not have God’s omniscience, so we are imperfect in our understanding. We judge incompletely. We try to attain salvation through our own perfection, but fail.
If I speak in the languages of humans and angels but have no love, I have become a reverberating gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all secrets and every form of knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains but have no love, I am nothing. Even if I give away everything that I have and sacrifice myself, but have no love, I gain nothing.
1 Cor 13:1-3 (ISV)
We see God’s wisdom in His Word. He foreknew our inability to fulfill perfectionism. He encourages us away from the world’s delusion of self-fulfillment and pride. He points us away from the world and draws us toward relationship and love. He draws us to Himself.