King David strikes me as a bit of a paradox. He was complex, multi-dimensional, and complicated. He was a passionate poet, in touch with his emotions and the deepest longings of his heart. He wrote,

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63”1)

He was able to put into words a deep and abiding love for the Lord inspiring people for generations. However, he’s the same David who fought off bears, stood up to the giant Goliath, defended Israel against the Philistines, and led the nation of Israel to victory in battle. Rarely does one exhibit this combination of passionate love and uncommon strength.

This is the kind of paradoxical character that Paul calls Christians to develop. Listen to the way he encouraged the Corinthians,“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). His encouragement was to be on their guard because it’s easy to get lulled to sleep. To stand firm because the world, the flesh, and the devil are warring against their soul. To be courageous because there are so many things to be feared. And finally, they were called to be strong because their default posture might be to shrink back in weakness. This challenge could have been heard as the battle cry that prompted David to set his foot out onto the battlefield, and it could be the very encouragement we need to fight our battles with faithful fortitude.

However, the charge didn’t end there. It culminated with the instruction, “do everything in love.” As Jesus’ followers, we are not only called to be strong but also to be loving. To put it another way, we aren’t only called to live in his way, but to live with his heart. When we focus only on being loving, it might cause us to shrink back in fear when we need to stand. However, when we focus on only being strong, we lose the sensitivity and empathy we’re called to exhibit. We are called to have tough skin, but a soft heart. Strength and love.

My guess is you have a tendency to lean either in the direction of love or strength. We’re either wired to fight off the bear, or write a moving poem, but rarely do we do both naturally. Spend time today praying about your default posture and ask Jesus to teach you how to embody the full paradox of living with strength and love.

Pastor Ryan Paulson

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