“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) RSV
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6.22-23) KJV
- Unconditional acceptance and authentic boundaries in our expression of love towards others.
- Giving and receiving. The need to know what we need, seek it, and receive it and the need to be pouring out our life to provide for the needs of others before we consider our own needs.
- The need to be silent and the need to speak.
- The need to be sober in our judgments and yet to judge no one.
- Faith and good works in the context of God’s work of salvation.
- Personal and corporate.
- Dynamic/changing and regular/consistent/changless.
- New being in Christ, zealous for His purpose and an idler and sinner.
- Death and resurrection.
There are, obviously, many more. The Bible is filled with these paradoxes. What are we to do? How do we live out such commands on the part of God?
One answer that is often opted for is to consider these aspects as somehow in an adversarial relationship as if they do not belong together. In such an approach the proponent does, at times, regard the other facet as certainly belonging in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of their favored facet. An example is the classic adversarial relationship that has been set up by many between faith and works. Works belong in the Christian life but not in the vicinity of the provision of salvation which is by faith alone they say. Another approach is not to exclude one facet for the other but rather to craft a kind of détente relationship. Yet another approach is to try and achieve a life in which the facets live in sort of a “tag team” relationship with one another. Or, to put it another way, a kind of pendulum life in which they swing from one extreme to the other to arrive at an average halfway in between. Yet another approach is to adopt the language of a “creative tension” or “balance.” In this approach the facets are portrayed as opposites or antithetical but partners or companions that provide needed balance for the other.
I would like to put forward the conviction that none of these really satisfies the full mandate of the Gospel. Please do not get the impression that I am saying that some of the approaches all too briefly described above do not have their good points or approximate the truth. They do. I am, of course, overstating the other approaches in order to make my point. But…. The Gospel mandates union not simply partnership and companionship and balance.
We are to live the paradoxes not solve them.
Revisit the passage above from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Notice that Jesus does not say “eyes,” but “eye.” Jesus speaks of seeing in the singular. I know, Jesus is speaking about good and evil and how we cannot live a dual life. But, permit me to use the statement to make a different point (an ancient Rabbinic practice after all. If you will not allow for this usage, I understand. Disregard the association with the passage altogether and continue with the analogy.)… One eye – one vision. Think of the way in which paradoxes are meant to be lived in terms of your eyes. We have, along with other creatures, a unique way of seeing. We have binocular vision. When you look at something you normally look at it with both eyes at the same time. The eyes do not fight one another; switch off; balance one another; or any other penultimate way of seeing. They see as one eye. We don’t even think about the fact. We simply see. We don’t think about seeing out of two eyes. We experience seeing as seeing with a singular vision. The eyes are united in their seeing. When we see in this way the world ceases to be flat. We see with depth and perspective. Neither eye sees fully. Yet each eye is healthy in its seeing as an eye. They are not simply partners. They do not consider themselves as parties to a contract of cooperation, each complete in and of itself. Neither does one healthy eye compete with the other eye to be the one to see particular things. They both see together. They die to individualistic seeing and surrender themselves to the formation of a unified vision. The analogy, as do all analogies, falls short. Nonetheless, perhaps the analogy does help portray the mysterious union.