Where Wrath and Love Run Wild

If you Google the phrase “balanced Christian life,” you will find over 2 million results in the blink of an eye. Books, magazines, and sermons will rush to your aid in calibrating the conflicting priorities that characterize this following life. It was no surprise that G.K. Chesterton’s thoughts from Chapter 6 of Orthodoxy were not among the first wave of responses, and that’s likely because he found not balance, but conflict to be the chief virtue of the Christian life.

Theologically, we’re all accustomed to paradox. God’s great rescue plan involved becoming a man while remaining fully God; we live by faith, all the while knowing that works are the evidence of that faith; and we accept the truth that, somehow, God’s foreknowledge does not diminish by one whit my freedom to act according to my own will.  It turns out that making peace with paradox at the theological level is a helpful skill in actually living the “balanced Christian life,” because Christianity finds its balance in the combination of “furious opposites.”  (143)

I invite you to a few moments’ pondering and delight in three “furious opposites” from Chesterton’s viewpoint, and then, from the biblical record:

1. Dignity and Humility

“In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures.
In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners.”  (142)

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”   (Zephaniah 3:17)

 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

2. Wrath and Love

“We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” (144)

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29,30)

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21,22)

3. Meekness and Madness

“By defining its main doctrine, the Church not only kept seemingly inconsistent things side by side, but, what was more, allowed them to break out in a sort of artistic violence otherwise possible only to anarchists. . . Historic Christianity rose into a high and strange coup de théatre of morality–things that are to virtue what the crimes of Nero are to vice.” (145)

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

The Angle at which We Stand

In our 21st century quest for balance, it’s no wonder we’re knocked off our feet by the demands of a Lamb/Lion God, a Deity “slain from the foundation of the world” who has still retained “His royal ferocity.” And so we teeter first on one foot, and then the other as we take forgiveness with thanksgiving only to sin again within the hour. We recoil in horror over pornography and materialism, and we shed tears over child abuse and human trafficking, and then turn unsteadily to offer the peace of Christ and the welcome of the gospel to the guilty. We pray for grace to show up for the daily routines that mark a life of faithfulness and trust that these are building our faith muscles for “good things to run wild” in and through us.

Dwellers in Narnia soon encountered Aslan and learned that he “is not a tame lion.”  Dwellers of Earth are invited into “the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy” which is not “something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”

Rejoicing with you in this perilous and exciting following life,

michele signature rose[1]

As usual, your insights on Chesterton’s writing are welcome in the comments below, and if you are also inspired to create your own blog post, be sure to share the link with us so we can continue the conversation over at your place.

This post is part six in a meandering journey through Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. If you’re just joining us, you can start here for the rationale behind this project. The journey through Orthodoxy has taken us into topics as diverse as parenting, the irony of free will, the humility of being right, and the miracle of God’s creative genius. Last month, we examined Chesterton’s thoughts on patriotism just in time for Memorial Day.

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

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39 thoughts on “Where Wrath and Love Run Wild”

  1. Another wonderful, thought-provoking post, Michele! There are many paradoxes inherent in Christianity. One I ponder often is the role that doubt plays in faith. Paul Tillich, one of my favorite theologians, says that there cannot be faith without doubt. Aslan is indeed no tame lion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m studying the Beatitudes right now, so these thoughts from Chesterton have dovetailed nicely with the teachings of Jesus about a Kingdom that is beyond my comprehension.
      I’m thankful for God’s patient teaching!


  2. I’ve been planning for some time a series on making peace within the paradoxes of Christianity — mess yet masterpiece, saint but sinner, dying daily but living eternally, equipped but never enough, broken but being perfected, etc… But maybe I need to read this book first!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mining the wealth of all God is – such a great choice of words! As one who lives in an historic copper mining region, I realize the effort and difficulty of that work. The effort we put into studying God’s Word is surely worth the effort. His wealth can never be exhausted.


      2. Thanks for bringing your understanding of this process to the conversation, Julie. Mining is no small thing, and the miner gets tired and very dirty in the process!


  3. those are some beautiful and breath taking paradoxes. Since I just did a blog on balance I have to admit my guilt in adding to the flood on google 😉


  4. I, too, have contemplated the contradictions of scripture, including: Do we press on (Phil. 3:13-14) or be still (Ex. 14:14)? Do we wait in faith (Psa. 27:14) or step out in faith like Abraham (Gen. 12:1-4)? Do we trust God to protect us (Psa. 91:9-11) or expect trials and suffering (Phil. 1:29?) My wonderings and reading became a blog post, highlighting three ways to handle such mixed messages: 1) Seek balance–in the combination of “furious opposites,” as you’ve mentioned here, Michele. 2) Embrace the ambiguity. It keeps us close to Him. He knows exactly how these contradictions actually line up perfectly; we don’t. 3) Embrace the adventure of living with contradiction. It fosters faith. With you I rejoice in this “perilous and exciting following life,” with a God whose ways are beyond our understanding–something to celebrate, not bemoan!


  5. I’ve been saving this post in me Feedly because I wanted to read it when I could think along with it. Chesterton seems to be that kind of writer – like Lewis – for whom one’s thinking cap needs to be firmly affixed. I’ve come across several paradoxes in Scripture, but some of these are new to me, or at least I had not thought about them quite this way. It’s interesting, or maybe an inevitability, that so much theological error arises from leaning too far one way or the other with many of these, instead of “making peace with paradox.”


    1. I feel honored that you have been intentional about reading this post. Truly.
      And I appreciate your thinking on the origins of error. So often we camp out on some thought until it becomes a matter of policy for us. We honor God immensely when we hold ourselves in the tension of awe and not-quite-understanding, but marveling at His ways.


  6. I’ve noticed the tendency of man is to swing to the extremes, for example extremes in legalism or in license to do as we please. Balance is a rarity!


    1. Yes, and there is so much wisdom in holding the two seemingly conflicting truths, one in each hand, and then acknowledging that “God is in the heavens, and He does whatsoever He pleases.”


  7. So I love the paradoxes in the Bible because it reminds me that God’s brain and capacity for logic is SO MUCH BIGGER than mine. Honestly, if I could completely understand it all, I think the quality would suffer ☺️


    1. Who was it that said if God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped? I love the challenge of trying to wrap my head around all the mysteries as well as the feeling of wonder when my head won’t reach.


  8. I don’t know if I told you yet but … “Orthodoxy” is on my desk waiting to come with me on vacation 🙂 Time to read this one again – quietly and slowly.


    1. That’s good news, Joanne, because I love having company on my journey through a book! (Particularly if it’s challenging!) So good that you have a vacation in your near future! No better time to read!


  9. Reading your thoughts here, on the beauty of paradox, and the stretching of our faith muscles for “the good things to run wild,” reminded me of one of Rich Mullin’s songs, “Calling Out Your Name.” His lines, “How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
    And shakes us forward and shakes us free To run wild with the hope” cause me to wonder if we need these thoughts of paradox to shake us up, and lift us out of our tightly held boxes? God surely is that untamed Lion! But how thankful I am that He is filled with love & grace for us. Thank you for sharing such beautiful words!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am going to have to add GK Chesterton to my reading list. I’ve heard of the author but never read anything. Visiting from Good Morning Monday.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Michele, As I read this excellent, thought-provoking post, I was also struck with what a gift the Lord has given you for writing. For taking what you have read and transforming it into a well-thought out, articulate blog post that both edifies and informs.

    This looks like a very interesting book and I appreciate so much the insights you have been sharing through your study of that book.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, thank you for that thoughtful affirmation. I love talking books with friends, so blogging has been a gift in so many ways. Thanks for all you do to encourage and bless!


  12. I believe that Jesus Christ, the Truth, is the balance we seek. Whatever the question, Jesus is still the answer. Thanks for sharing, Michele. Blessings to you.


  13. In studying graphic design and photography, I learned the importance of contrast, how white space and shadow create depth and dimension. The contrasts you mentioned above, among many others, always point me to the sheer beauty of the gospel and of grace!


  14. Balance is difficult, I find myself at my wit’s end with a family member who is currently at one end using her religion as a battering ram to bend people to her definition of righteous and moral. #GlobalBlogging


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