One of the great troubles with Christ is that He requires that a man be two things at once. Not merely two things, but two divergent things. Complete opposites. We often call them paradoxes, but it's a bit more complicated than that.
This is the struggle that many of us have when we come to be Christians. For most of us, it feels like transitioning out of being one thing and coming to be another entirely. We do, as Paul says, put on new clothes. The old is destroyed and the new has come and what we were yesterday is not what we are today.
Although we must be.
And I think this is one of the reasons our grace so easily fails us. It's why we're so hard on others who are walking their divergent roads; we believe we have taken a path and have become something and we do not understand why some men seem to have chosen the other path, become the opposite. And yet, still call themselves men.
It is primarily this, although this is perhaps the most glaring and simplistic example: for those of us who find Christ, we count ourselves among the saints. Or at least, among the saved. That is, after all, the natural outflow of finding such a Christ. Where once we are sinners, now we are saved. The trouble is that we cannot be saved without continuing to be sinners. Not that we continue to sin, but that we continue to be aware of our sinful nature and our propensity toward rebellion. Without that, we need no Savior and indeed, cannot be saved. So the more we count ourselves among the saved, we are required to count ourselves among the sinners.
Most of us fail to do this and end up condemning the lost more than leading them to be found. It's tragic.
Jesus says we must be leaders, that we must show the world the path to the narrow way, that we must show them how to get to the Cross. He also says we must be servants. The truth is we cannot lead unless we are serving, but serving requires a certain measure to slow down, to hold back, to labor in the trenches. Leading means we have to step out first.
Or how about this? If we want to lead, we must follow. We are supposed to show other people the way without really knowing it ourselves, except to know that it comes in following Jesus.
Those of us who desire to be strong must be weak. Those of us to be raised up must be humble. Those of us to be first must be last.
The truth is that whatever we find ourselves to be in Jesus, we must be also the very opposite if we hope to be that thing at all.
And we say that perhaps this, yes, perhaps this is the way to life. But I promise you it is not. This is not the way to life. Except that it is the way to death. It is the way by which we stretch ourselves out on the Cross - as far in both directions as we can possibly go, fully to the right and to the left until we are nearly torn in two and the very breath is taken out of us by the pressure of it all. Here, in this place in which we are as fully as possible both one thing and another entirely...here, we find death.
Which is, the way these sorts of things work, the only way we ever find life.
Two roads diverge from the narrow road, and the life in Christ is not about choosing on or the other; it is about choosing, at once, both. If you ever hope to be the saint, you must equally be the sinner. If you ever hope to be found, you must be lost. If you ever hope to be full, you must be empty.