The Paradox of the Gospel

by John Ellis

We strive to be either icons or iconoclasts; we long to build up or to burn down. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that does both. That paradox, though, stokes rebellion in our heart.

To be loved by the Most High God is an incalculable weight; a burden that lifts. And one that lifts beyond limits; limits to which we cling because those limits help us believe the lie that we, too, can be like God. Our beloved limits soothe us with the falsity that God, too, is limited. He must be, the lie murmurs, because we’re just like Him. Proving that we’re just like Him becomes our raison d’etre. In the absence of that proof, as the Light from the inevitable Holiness of the only One who is Holy illumines our absurd unholiness, we’re left with despair. And despair is not for gods. Building to build is our last rejoinder. Building for self is the is.

I am a god, we believe. I am a god, we build. I am a god, we trumpet. I am the God, we end. Or so we believe.

For others, that paradox instills despair. Not the despair of a sinner faced with the endgame of his limits, longing to be lifted by the Limitless. No, the despair of a god whose creation is all wrong; a god whose creation can’t give life. But it’s our creation, and to own it means to burn it. Without life all that’s left is death, and we can master that, says the lie.

Surrendering our right to light the flame is the only defeat. Destruction is our birthright, because it’s our truth. The Builder of humans has no right to rebuild us in the image of the Son. His Truth, while limitless, is paradoxically limiting for us. Better to burn than to be rebuilt. Better to be a god of war than a child of the God of Love.  

I am a god, we believe. I am a god, we burn. I am a god, we scream. I am the God, we end. Or so we believe.

We don’t want to be lifted beyond limits. We want God to bow before our limits. The paradox of the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the illusion of power held dear by both the icon and iconoclast while calling the created to bow before the Creator.

Christ’s gospel tells us that while we were yet sinners, God loved us. Love embracing the unlovable. What should be burned is rebuilt. What isn’t rebuilt is finally and fully burned.

Another paradox: we are free, and God is Sovereign over all. Yet freedom brings bondage; subjection brings liberty. Our freedom brings death; the opposite of the lie we inherited from our first parents. Subjugation brings life; a Truth revealed to us from the beginning by the Beginner of all.

Both icons and iconoclasts long to rule. One by building up; one by burning down. The gospel of Jesus Christ burns to build. The gospel of Jesus Christ gives life through death.

Die to self because the One who lives died so that you may have life – life that never stops living; life that never stops lifing. Death is the only way to that life – to that living; to that lifing.

We cannot build; we cannot burn. We are built, or we are burnt. In His wrath, we are made dead though we live – the fate of both the icon and the iconoclast. By God’s grace, we are made alive through death: the reward of those who surrender all – both life and death – to their Creator.

Soli Deo Gloria

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