Mark G. Schroeder
Apparent contradictions—with the emphasis on the word apparent. Apparent contradictions happen when two true statements appear to contradict each other, but in the end, there is no contradiction at all. Here are some examples: God is three persons, yet one God. Jesus is fully human and fully divine. God is perfectly righteous and must punish sin; God is completely gracious, a God who forgives the sinner fully and completely. All these statement that appear to be contradictions are not contradictions at all. They only seem to be contradictions because of the limits of our human ability to comprehend the nature of an incomprehensible God.
There are other apparent contradictions. In May, I had the opportunity to speak with the graduating class at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary just before they were assigned to their first calls. I drew their attention to an apparent contradiction that each of them was experiencing: “In a matter of hours, you will learn where you will serve. Right now, you have absolutely no clue what God has in store for you. At the same time, you know exactly what God has in store for you. You don’t know where you will be serving, but you know that God will use you as his witnesses. He will give you the privilege to preach the gospel and to teach God’s people. And as you serve him, you know that God will bless your efforts.” In one sense those graduates had no clue what God had in store for them. At the same time, they could know exactly what God would do for them and with them.
We are living in a time when we need to remember that the same two truths often apply to the work that our synod does. We have no clue what God has in store for our synod. At the same time, we know exactly what he has in store for us.
For example, God has opened a door to WELS in, of all places, Vietnam. We have been permitted by the Vietnamese government to provide theological education to the leaders of a 100,000-member church body that wants to become fully Lutheran. In one sense, we have absolutely no clue what exactly will happen with our efforts. At the same time, however, we know exactly what God has in store for us. As always, we know that his Word will not return to him empty. God will accomplish his purpose.
What about the future of our synod? We have no idea what God has in store for us. Will the attacks on God’s truth increase in intensity? Will our synod experience numerical growth or a loss of membership? Will a shortage of called workers become more acute, or will the number of those willing to serve in public ministry increase? Will decreasing financial support require us to scale back our mission and ministry, or will God provide the resources for us to expand?
In one very real way, the answer to those questions is, “We have no clue what God has in store for us.” But in another way, we can say, “We know exactly what God has in store for us.” We know that God will never leave us or forsake us. We know that, as we spread the seed of the gospel, God will bless that planting in the way and in the time that he sees fit.
In other words, an apparent contradiction is no contradiction at all. We face the future not knowing exactly what it holds but with trust and confidence in God’s unbreakable promises.
Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019