The Great Contradiction
Today’s Christian finds himself confronted by a variety of forces that threaten to defeat his testimony for God. Cold indifference is widespread. We all encounter it. Subtle denials of the truth abound on every hand. Especially are the Deity of Christ and His blood atonement subjects for attack. Materialism is rampant, inviting men to find their welfare and satisfactions in mere things, and casting doubt upon the value of everything spiritual. Atheistic communism everywhere raises its ugly head, threatening nation after nation, and doing its best to undermine all Christian institutions. Through these and other agencies the world, the flesh and the devil aim to bring about the downfall of the Christian. Together they present a tremendous challenge.
But none of the things we have referred to, nor all of them together, are as serious a threat to the Christian’s influence among men as something we have yet to name. We refer to the inconsistencies too often seen in the Christian’s own life. Too often there is a marked disparity between doctrine and life, between profession and practice.
This “Great Contradiction,” as someone has named it — this glaring inconsistency — has tragic results. Hungry souls are disappointed. They say (as some did in James’ day) “Show me!” but look in vain for a practical demonstration of our faith, and soon lose interest. Onlookers too often are given the impression that Christianity is a visionary thing, unrelated to the realities of life. The Gospel, they conclude, is not worthy of serious consideration, for it does not seem to work in the lives of its advocates. And, too, truths that we would like to see meeting with interest among Christians generally, meet with neglect. The reason? Like Scribes and Pharisees of old we too often “say and do not” (Matt. 23:3). We present doctrine without example.
This contradiction is sometimes seen even in the attitude displayed toward the Lord Himself. His are sovereign rights in the lives of His people. He is LORD, and the purpose of every child of God should be that implied in Paul’s question at the beginning of His Christian career: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” But do not many of us tend to be like the son who, when told to go work in the vineyard, replied “I go, Sir, and went not?” Do we profess allegiance to Christ, while in practice we fail to give effect to certain facets of His will? Would He have to say to us today what He said to some long ago: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
The same contradiction is too often to be observed in the dealings of Christians with one another. The Lord expects that His people will “love one another” (John 15:12). They are, in fact, “taught of God” to do so (1 Thess. 4:9) — love is an instinct implanted in every born-again soul, And we are to “not love in word,… but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Our love is to be real (“in truth”) and not a mere pretense (“without dissimulation” —Rom. 12:9). It is to be love “unfeigned,” issuing from a “pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). And it is to be active love (“in deed”). It may express itself in encouraging words, but will not be confined to words when the occasion calls for action. To say, however piously, “be warmed and filled” does not meet the need of the destitute (James 2:16). In our relations with fellow-Christians, if we are not “kindly affectioned… in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10), our professions of love will deserve to be looked upon as mere sanctimonious cant. In the light of both Scripture and experience it must be admitted that, in the area we refer to, much remains to be desired. May the Lord stir our hearts, and by His grace enable us to put an end to this phase of “the great contradiction!”
Much more could be said but we limit ourselves to a few remarks as to the tenor of much that passes for Christian living today. For our “text” we quote, in part, from Rev. 3:17: “…Thou SAYEST, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou ART wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked… Note the inconsistency suggested by the words “thou sayest .. . thou art … “ Here are extravagant claims, accompanied by a glaring lack of genuine Christian virtue. The contradiction is full-blown and plain for all to see. Does the description seem overdrawn and harsh? The condition described certainly exists today — in fact it is widespread, and no unbiased person whose eyes are at all open to what goes on, can fail to see it.
The Lord Jesus, in His teaching and in His life among men, made it very clear that there is a close connection between saying and doing —with a definite emphasis on the doing (see, e.g., Acts 1:1). Let us see to it that we are not found making high claims while exhibiting low practice. Such a contradiction, the Lord tells us, is to Him simply nauseating. And to people around us who witness it, it is a stench and a stumbling-block.