The whole of Christianity, at its heart, is paradoxical. As Christians, we believe things that seem on the surface to be nonsensical. But upon close inspection, these seeming contradictions of Christian thought are mysterious paradoxes, which are keys to understanding truths that speak to the very essence of human existence.
Christians are called to be joyful, but are also warned not to expect happiness in this life. We are given a whole host of wonderful gifts by God – but we are asked to sacrifice these good gifts if we wish to be truly happy. We are commanded to take up the yoke of Christ, for as he tells us: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 11:30) - yet at the same time we are asked to “take up our cross” (Luke 9:23) and follow Christ – wherever He might lead.
The list of seeming contradictions in Christianity could continue indefinitely.
These paradoxes are not mere curiosities of the Faith; they are woven throughout the very fabric of Christianity. Our faith is built on the giant paradox of Christ. The all-powerful God proved willing to take on mortal flesh and become a human being so as to redeem us. He literally took on our sins so that we might be saved from our own frailties and folly.
These fundamental paradoxes of Christianity are hard for our limited intellects to accept. After all, who would want to experience the pains of suffering and self-sacrifice except masochists and crazy people?
But Christian paradoxes reveal deeper wisdom. Self-sacrifice helps us to better appreciate the gifts we have been given, and suffering gives us the opportunity to strengthen our wills and to become more Christlike.
But the deeper wisdom of Christian paradoxes is often rejected by modern society, which laughs at and preaches against the very notion of self-sacrifice and which shudders at the mere mention of suffering. The leaders of society, entrenched in positions of authority and cultural influence, are too often loath to accept the spirit of self-denial and self-giving that the Christian mindset would entail.
It is for this reason that the supposedly learned and wise often scoff at the Church. They are comfortable – and indeed, too narrow-minded – to accept the paradoxes of Christianity which humbler and more simple men can accept. The mysteries of faith are often too deep for the minds of educated elites to comprehend, while the simple can humbly accept and embrace them, even if they do not fully understand them.
It is thus paradoxically true that: “God chose what is foolish in this world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in this world to shame the strong." (1 Cor 1:27)