The concept of tension is one of those things we know we must live with, but we don’t usually like it. Why? It’s uncomfortable. Why do we have to live with it? Because this is an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people.
Think for a moment of all the ways we feel or encounter tension in our lives, or even in just one day. We come into conflict with people whose behaviors or beliefs are different than ours. We have conflicting ideologies even within ourselves, which could be political, theological, or any other value or belief system.
I walk in this tension all the time, being conservative on some issues and liberal on others. Being a Christian around non-Christian friends and family. Having a different definition or demonstration of patriotism to my nationality than some of my coworkers do.
Then there’s the moral conflict within all of us. We struggle with the desire to do what is right, while also wanting to do what is wrong or not good for us or others. Like the apostle Paul says, “I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15, NLT).
And of course, one of the most difficult paradoxes in Christianity to live out: “Be in the world and not of it.” This last one is actually not direct scripture, but is rooted in some verses like John 15:19, John 17:14-19, 1 John 2:15, Romans 12:2, and others. For some interesting articles on this subject, check out https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lets-revise-the-popular-phrase-in-but-not-of and http://coldcasechristianity.com/2017/christian-worldview-what-does-it-mean-to-be-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world/.
Living as citizens of Heaven while in this beautiful mess of a world that God loves and has us in right now is hard. We know that He doesn’t love the hurtful things that people do and experience. But we also know that He loves all the people in it passionately, as well as all the beautiful things He’s made in His great creativity. So how do we live in this tension?
We live in tension by walking with God. We can’t do it in our own power. Ask any counselor or trauma therapist, or person who has lived in a war zone. It’s exhausting and potentially harmful to live in a constant state of tension. But He offers us all that we need in order to do just that. He shares our burdens and gives us rest in Him. He gives us wisdom, endurance, and peace.
And best of all: He gives us His love.
Love to fill our own needs and desires.
Love to share with others.
Love to forgive ourselves and others when we mess up or have conflict.
We won’t all agree this side of Heaven. We will feel out of place in this world that wants things other than God’s will. But someday, those who love Him will feel right at home, in the country of our true citizenship, worshipping Him together forever. Completely at peace with ourselves and each other and the world we’ll be living in. Amen! (And just in case you don’t know, this expression literally means “So be it!”)
And in the meantime, we can remember that even though tension is hard, it is a good thing. It keeps us alert and focused on Jesus.
About the Author
Jessie is an educator, currently in the role of academic advisor at a charter school after teaching there and overseas. She is also a novice writer, with several books in various stages and a (long-neglected) blog about the journeys of women. She is very excited to join the CitySalt blog team. She has been blessed by a few communities of Christian writers that have encouraged her dream. She lives with her trusty sidekick cat, Arwen in the foothills of South Eugene, where she can go hiking within minutes of the sun coming out from behind the clouds.