Saturday, August 7, 2021

Heads and Tails




“Which one should we choose?” “I don’t know; let’s flip a coin.” Have you ever decided something that way? Flipping a coin is a handy way of deciding on (unimportant) decisions because the coin has precisely two sides. There is heads, and there is tails. Before flipping the coin we can say, “Heads its yes, tails its no.” With each flip it is heads OR tails. When even the magic eight ball occasionally says, “Unsure at this time,” flipping a coin gives you a definite response. 


A coin has two distinct sides, which helps when flipping it, but the coin has a shortfall. Because it is two sided, we are left only able to see one side at a time. Pick up a penny and admire Abraham Lincoln, but if you want to see his memorial, you must flip the coin and lose Lincoln’s face. It is one or the other, and never both sides at once. If you want to study a coin, you must look at one side at the expense of the other. Pick a side and go all in. 


Sometimes we feel like we must make similar monolithic choices when it comes to doctrine. The Bible holds many concepts in seeming contradiction. Do we preach grace or do we preach truth? Is God merciful or is He just? Is Jesus the Son of God or the Son of Man? We treat these paradoxical concepts as if they are separate sides of a coin, and we must pick a side to the exclusion of the other. 


One pastor will focus on God’s grace, giving the impression that it matters not what an individual does, while the other puts his focus on truth, preaching law to the extent that no one ever feels good enough. One concentrates on heads, the other on tails. Or we present God as Mr. Mercy, taking a laissez faire approach to our life, indifferent to what we do because He forgives everything; then another presents God as Judge Justice, who holds a gavel in His holy hand, waiting to declare us guilty. We emphasize the divinity of Jesus to the point that we cannot conceive of Him actually being tempted to sin or discouraged when He was rejected. Others so emphasize His humanity that they forget He is coequal with the Father and Spirit. 


Is there a better way to grapple with these two sided coins in the Bible? I believe there is. The answer is the Bible itself. God’s Word “is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).” Not only does Scripture illuminate the path of life for us, it also helps us see like a mirror. Using that analogy, James wrote, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (1:23-25).”


How can we look at both sides of a coin at the same time? The only way is to hold the coin up to a mirror. We can see Lincoln looking back at us, and we can look past his face and see his memorial. God’s Word, like a mirror, helps us see both sides of the same coin. We can learn to hold grace and truth in perfect balance. In Scripture mercy and justice are reconciled. Jesus is the God-Man. These concepts are not at odds with each other, they complement each other.


There is no need to flip a coin to decide what we believe. It is not heads OR tails, but heads AND tails.  


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