Members of my family recently had occasion to fly ‘home’. Whenever anyone travels the friendly skies, others will invariably ask, “Was it a good flight?” What we are typically wondering is if it was bumpy or smooth – was there the dreaded turbulence. Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot, contends that the number one producer of flight anxiety in his passengers is that pesky turbulence. We who have never attended flight school, assume the plane’s ability to remain aloft is at risk. But in an article he wrote for Business Insider, Smith argues that from the perspective of the pilot, turbulence is often a mere blip:
For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash. Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it’s also, for lack of a better term, normal. From a pilot’s perspective, it is ordinarily seen as a convenience issue, not a safety issue. When a flight changes altitude in search of smoother conditions, this is by and large in the interest of comfort. The pilots aren’t worried about the wings falling off; they’re trying to keep their customers relaxed and everybody’s coffee where it belongs…. In the worst of it, you probably imagine the pilots in a sweaty lather: the captain barking orders, hands tight on the wheel as the ship lists from one side to another. Nothing could be further from the truth.
That pretty much sums up the way life is: a great majority of us are cowering in our seats, concerned about things that will never happen, while the few who know the truth carry out their duties, unaffected by the reality of their circumstance. We fret over our kids climbing trees and our lug nuts coming loose. We worry over lightning strikes and dog bites. We lose sleep over the national debt and the Red Sox prospects in the playoffs. Instead, we would rest easier if we trusted those who have the expertise to handle these matters to handle these matters. We would be less anxious if we let the pilot fly the plane.
My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. Psalm 131:1
My problem, and the problem of my fellow inhabitants on earth, irrespective of demography, is that we concern ourselves with matters ‘above our pay grade’. Beyond the troubles of turbulence during our flights (or elsewhere), we regularly engage in forming opinions on matters about which we have little or no knowledge, the things that only God can fathom. Imagine the peace we would gain when we do not concern ourselves with great matters of God – the lengths of grace, the depth of mercy, the fullness of compassion, the vastness of forgiveness – and simply trust the one who is an expert in these things too wonderful for us.
As we travel, we will be required to endure bumps and tossing caused by the winds we encounter. At those very moments, we need to trust the One who directs our path, the Lord Almighty.
The world is full of paradoxes – propositions that contain contradictory elements but prove to be true. There is Galileo’s paradox: though most numbers are not squares, there are no more numbers than squares; the Archer’s paradox: an archer must, in order to hit his target, not aim directly at it, but slightly to the side; and the paradox of Hedonism: when one pursues happiness itself, one is miserable, but when one pursues something else, one achieves happiness. In the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy there is another paradox, which I will call the exclusive inclusivity paradox.
“… [God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:4-6a
The truth of the gospel is, if nothing else, perfectly inclusive. God wants all people to be saved. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth. God’s desire is that every person – irrespective of gender, class, ethnicity or age – would know Him. God’s wish is the every person in all creation over all time would have intimate understanding of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. The truth of the gospel is available to all.
The truth of the gospel is also, if nothing else, perfectly exclusive. There is only one God and one mediator between God and mankind. When it comes to the gospel , there are no choices but one: believe in the God of the Bible and the sacrificial death of Jesus as a ransom for sin…or do not. There are not many pathways to paradise, but one (the road to Calvary). There is no diversity of positive alternatives in one’s eternal future, but one true God (whose wrath against sin is mediated solely through Christ).
This is the paradox of the gospel: that God desires that everyone know Him and that the truth that He wants everyone to know about Him is extremely specific. The good news is that God wants everyone to be saved; the challenge to mankind is that salvation comes only through Him. Some of us like exclusivity: memberships in an elite club, offers that only we can accept, relationships with that one significant other. Some of us gravitate toward inclusivity: neighborhood block parties, open houses and free samples. The wonderful thing about the gospel -driven church is the exclusive inclusivity of the truth she espouses.
There is room for us all before the cross of Christ. The longing of God is that all people trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The longing of God is that we all know that there is only one name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:22). If you know the exclusive inclusivity of the gospel, share it with those who have yet to hear the truth of God. If you do not know the exclusive inclusivity of the gospel, consider accepting these words and going to church this weekend.
The one true God longs for all people to know Him.