Summary: Paul's apparently conspicuous contradictions, and puzzling paradoxes are the result of his God-given ability to see the whole of life, and not just some of its parts in isolation.
In South Dakota a man by the name of August had a clothing store he was
going to close up. His was not one of those perpetual year around closing
sales. He was actually intending to go out of business by July. So he hung
a sign in his window which read, The First Of July Is The Last Of August.
Those who did not know the owners name would think the sign was expressing a
meaningless and hopelessly unexplainable contradiction, but for those who
knew his name, the sign conveyed a clear and clever message. So often an
apparent contradiction has a very simple explanation. This
is the case with the many Biblical paradoxes. Paul has one here in the last
chapter of Galatians that certainly seems on the surface, to be a flat
contradiction. In verse 2 he says, "Bear one another's burdens," and then in
verse 5 he says, "Each man will have to bear his own burden." Certainly in
three verses Paul had not forgotten what he wrote. But if he did it on
purpose, which is obvious, how can it be that we are to carry one another's
burdens, and at the same time each be stuck with our own load?
One might just as well say, that to be wise we must become fools, or,
to be strong we must become weak. As a matter of fact, Paul said both of
those paradoxes as well. Was Paul a master at double talk, or was he gifted
with the ability to see life from a wider and wiser perspective than most
men? The latter is the obvious answer. Paul's apparently conspicuous
contradictions, and puzzling paradoxes are the result of his God-given
ability to see the whole of life, and not just some of its parts in
isolation. This ability was essential for one who represented so
authoritatively Him who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
What can be more paradoxical than an A which is also a Z, or beginning which
is also an end. This can only be possible if we are referring to one who is
eternal and omnipresent, and who, therefore, fills all of reality at the same
time. This, of course, is precisely the case with God.
Since God's very nature is paradoxical, because it is so all
encompassing it follows that it ought not to be surprising to find that His
revelation partakes of His nature. The Bible is filled with paradoxes just
because it sees life as a whole, and not just in fragments, as is the case
with all merely human philosophy. To conquer we must surrender; to live we
must die; to be exalted we must be humble; to get we must give. God hates
the sinner, yet loves the sinner enough to give His Son for them. Blessed
are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Yet, those who drink of
the water of life shall thirst no more. In the last days there shall come
those forbidding to marry. Yet, in the last days they shall marry and be
given in marriage.
On and on goes the list of Biblical paradoxes, each of them with a
valuable lesson to broaden our minds and enlarge our vision of reality. We
want to focus our attention on this one before us, which deals with burdens.
The thing to be aware of is the truth conveyed by paradox, which is, opposite
things can be true of the same thing. A river can be narrow and wide;
crooked and straight. From one perspective you may see it go straight for
miles, and then begin to wind for miles.
The word burden has more than one meaning, and depending upon how you
are using it, it can refer to a curse or a blessing. There are burdens in
life that no one can consider good. They are evil, and are crushing burdens.
William G. Clark referred to such when he wrote,
Oh, there are moments for us here, when seeing
Life's any qualities, and woe, and care,
The burdens laid upon our mortal being
Seems heavier than the human heart can bear.
The Bible urges us to get rid of these kinds of burdens, for they are
anxieties and cares that are beyond our control. "Casting all your care
upon Him, for He careth for you." "Come unto me all ye that labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
The burdens of weary, overworked, and frustrated lives are to be gotten rid
of, and refreshment, and rest are to be found in Christ. "Cast your burden
on the Lord, and He will sustain you." This is certainly one way to look at
the matter of burdens, but God forbid that we think it is the whole truth