Look carefully at this triangle. It is called a Penrose Triangle and illustrates the concept of a paradox. A paradox is something that seems absurd or contradictory. Our common sense tells us it should be one way, but in truth it is something else. If you are familiar with the artwork of M.C. Escher, he created several works that illustrate visual paradox. [You can view Escher’s work online at www.mcescher.com. See especially: Belvedere (1958), Ascending and Descending (1960), and Waterfall (1961).]
In God’s reality we encounter many paradoxes. Our common sense tells us one thing, but God’s Word tells us the truth is something different. We fight to get to the top, but the Bible tells us the first shall be last, and the last first (Matt. 19:27-30); the one who wishes to be greatest must be a servant (Mark 10:35-45); and the foolishness of God is wiser than men (1 Cor. 1:18-29). Jesus made it clear that our common sense is also lacking when it comes to our understanding of sin. For example, we understand that it is a sin to commit murder, but Jesus said that anyone who is angry and calls his brother names is liable to judgment (Matt. 5:21-22; see also Matt. 5:27-28,31-34).
There are foundational paradoxes in the Christian life: if we wish to truly live, we must die to self. If we desire to live for God, we must surrender to Him. The apostle Paul summed it up this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20) It is a paradox. It is counter-intuitive. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is true. If I want to live, I must die. If I want to live for Christ, I must stop trying and instead I must surrender myself to Jesus Christ so that He might live through me.