Over the last few years in my role as Chaplain, it has been my privilege to have lunch with many incredible young people at Charlton. During these lunches, we talk about anything and everything, but in all these conversations, one thing constantly surprises me: the conversation always seems to turn to God. Specifically, the tension that exists between who we think God is and what we believe He should be doing, and the reality of what we see every day. This reality seems to be so far from the good, peaceful and just world we long for.
When we are confronted with these seemingly irreconcilable tensions, we have 3 choices:
- We ignore it, move on with life and try not to think about it again;
- We change God to fit our reality or opinions, and in the end create our own god who gives us no tension, and everything fits nicely into our idea of what a god should be like; or
- We acknowledge that God is infinitely more complex than we are, and that because of His unchanging nature of goodness and love, it is our job to wrestle with and try to reconcile the tension.
This idea of wrestling with the tensions found in the Bible is not new. The New Testament authors were doing this in their letters. For some reason however, in today’s culture, taking the time to wrestle with tension isn’t given the same importance. We simply miss out on some of the most beautiful and perspective-shifting revelations of God’s character.
For example, how do we reconcile a just God who ensures the guilty get punished (Exodus 34:7), with a forgiving and gracious God (Psalm 103:12)? We need to wrestle with this, think about and persevere in exploring these two sides of God! Ultimately, we begin to see those tensions resolved through the lens of the cross where Jesus (the Son that God intentionally sent) died for our sins. This sacrifice fulfilled justice while at the same time showed us grace and forgiveness.
My encouragement to all the young people seeking to understand God more is this: Ask the big questions, but don’t think that you are more enlightened than the millions of people who have asked them before you! Remember, if you come to the same conclusion as others, the truth doesn’t need to be unique or original to be right. Try this approach …
- Read your Bible – yes, really read it. Ask questions like:
“How would this have sounded to the original audience?”
“How does this point to Jesus?”
“What insight does this give me into the nature of humanity?”
- Listen to the people who have wrestled before you. There are thousands of years’ worth of teaching, writing and art purely devoted to understanding the nature of God and man.
- Finally, as parents, we shouldn’t shrink away from the hard conversations! Allow your conversations to be a safe place for your kids to wrestle with the big questions of life:
“Who am I?”
“Who is God?”
“What do I do with the life God gave me?”
And let’s get ready to rumble in the Word, with each other and with a God who loves us!
Mr James Adamthwaite / Chaplain