In 2007, I sat in a conference listening to futurist Leonard Sweet share about a transition that was happening in American culture. Sweet had been talking about this shift for some time. He talked about the bell curve being replaced by the well curve. He talked about the rising polarization and extremism. He encouraged the attendees to consider the impact this would have on their work.
Some things he mentioned:
-It would become more and more difficult to maintain tensions.
-In this environment, extremism is easier. As a result, extremism would grow in every context.
-When coupled with available technologies, knee-jerk over reactions are easier.
Five years later, Sweet’s words still ring in my mind and they’ve only become more true!
I had the privilege to speak yesterday at St. George’s Anglican Community in Downtown Phoenix. At the invitation of Shane Copeland, I shared as a part of their GOD series. My subject? God as near and far – in theological terms: immanence and transcendence
My big idea was “the dynamic of God as near and far is not a problem to be solved, but a tension to be managed.” I shared about how throughout the last century, followers of Jesus had struggled to maintain this tension and had tried to solve how God was near and far. Many of these endeavors ended up with an imbalanced picture of God – a God who was only near or who was only far.
When the tension of God as near and far is lost, an incomplete picture of God arises that hinders the ability of that person/people to live out the mission God called them to. I shared about how certain groups in the church are stark examples of this. Westboro Baptist Church – the smallest and most infamous church in America – share about a God who is so far off that he becomes full of wrath and judgment and nothing else. These “followers” become arrogant, self-righteous, and mean. On the other side, other groups express God’s nearness to the point that he is your buddy, your best friend. God loses all power and the source to change a broken, depraved, and sinful world is lost.
On a personal level, our inability to live with tension is killing us – politically, personally, and culturally. We not only see it played out in the current election season, but in the midst of every other national conversation.
Maintaining tension is hard. But it is possible and so incredibly important. Consider the value of these tensions…
-Disagreeing with one another with honor and respect
-Discuss divisive issues with civility and openness
-Accept every person’s value without endorsing behavior
-Loving one another and embracing accountability.
It is harder to maintain a tension than to solve a problem. But in trying to “figure it out” or “solve the problem”, we end up with an imbalanced solution.
In keeping these in tension, it is not 50+50=100; it is 100+100=100. It’s not some of each; it is all of each. When managing tensions, we have all of both pieces together at once.
As a follower of Jesus, I see this dynamic tension at play in my Jesus – my Savior and Master. He is fully God and fully man. He is full of grace and truth.
Today, I’m challenging myself to live out the message I shared yesterday – to embrace the call to manage the dynamic tension. That’s where the strength and power is…when we lose one or the other, we lose something great.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. In what area is it hard for you to manage something in tension? Which tensions are toughest for you?