Counterintuitive mysteries abound in the world we live in. In social interaction, sometimes the more we try to impress people, the less they will be charmed; the harder we try to draw someone closer to us, the more turned off they may get and the further they may stay away from us; the more candidly we tell others about our shortcomings, the better a person they may think we are. In science, we hear that sometimes, warmer water freezes faster than cooler water.
Revelation of Christian Counterintuition
In many ways, Christianity is counterintuitive:
- Son of God left glorious heaven and came to earth in lowly manner.
- The King who reigns not by prosperity, but through suffering and death.
- Divine love poured upon the unworthy instead of the deserving.
- Salvation not earned by works but given by grace and received by faith.
- Master who came to serve instead of being served.
- Those who want to live will die; but those who are willing to lose their lives for God will live.
Such counterintuitive ideas are indeed hard for anyone to grasp, if not for the intervention and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, who reveals through the glory of the Calvary Cross. God is subtly revealing a counterintuitive spiritual principle, that the more we suffer for the gospel, the more joy we receive. And the more the world rejects the gospel we share, the more we are indebted to save souls. Yet, can we unravel that counterintuitive mystery? We cannot, unless through the Cross.
As Good Friday draws near, I would like to reflect together with you, the most important paradox of all – God’s counterintuitive love.
Ro 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
be it wilfully or helplessly,
is part of our fallen nature.
Plainly put, God has no reason to love us, much less to die for us and save us. For we are the ones who betrayed Him first. We are the ones who exchanged His glory for other things to gratify our desires, our vanity, our pleasures. And even after becoming Christians and having tasted His sweetness, we are often still mesmerized by something else other than God. It is so easy to forget God and live life on our own terms. Sinning, be it willfully or helplessly, is part of our fallen nature. Thus, we tend to betray God over and over again.
Yet, despite all these, despite even knowing the future sins we will commit and the disappointments we will give Him, Jesus still went up to the cross, willingly, out of counterintuitive love for unworthy sinners.
We may have problem even trying to comprehend such counterintuitive love, much less to display such love. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” <Jn 15:13> Christ is the perfect model of this highest form of love. The amazing thing is, that is not all, Christ not just died for sinners, but our victorious Lord also resurrected from the dead, in order to save us. His is a saving love. <Ep 2:4-5> tells us that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
God’s counterintuitive love deserves our counterintuitive faith.
Just as God’s love is counterintuitive, the way into the salvific blessings of His love is also counterintuitive. As is the case for many blessed ones in the Bible, God also calls for our counterintuitive faith in Him.
The Bible is a showcase of how counterintuitive faith won the day and saved those who trusted God beyond logic. It did not make sense to build a huge ark when flood was nowhere in sight; the idea of conquering Jericho not with fighting but with silent marching might seem silly; and to leave everything behind to follow Jesus like His disciples? No, that did not seem to be sensible either. All these are counterintuitive.
Yet, we have the privilege of knowing the endings of these stories. Noah and his family were the only humans who were saved in their time; Israel conquered Jericho, Jesus’ disciples (with the exception of Judas, of course) were greatly used by God to impact the world with the gospel.
Likewise, it may also not make sense that undeserving sinners can be saved without doing anything, but simply believing in Jesus.
It may not make sense to give up worldly pleasures to seek God first, when so many others are indulging in carnalities.
It may not make sense to continue believing in God, despite illnesses, poverty, hardships, trials, loneliness, and delays in prayer answers.
It may not make sense to spend time with God, and invest time to serve Him and His people, when we are swarmed with busyness and our own worries of life.
Yet, do not let our intuition or our sense deceive us. Recall the fall of Adam and Eve. They trusted their intuition; it had made sense to them to eat the forbidden fruit that seemed packed with so much value – the gift of knowing good and evil or to be as wise as God to take charge of their own lives. Their intuition betrayed them. They believed what their hearts told them so much that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie <Ro 1:25>.
Likewise, our fallen intuition also cannot be trusted. We may resist God’s love and His word because they defy logic, but dear friends, before you dismiss the counterintuitive gift of salvation from God; before you decide to give up following God due to your seemingly unanswered prayers, please pause and reconsider. Can we trust our intuition more, or trust more in the God who demonstrated His love for us in the most unthinkable way? Sometimes, the evil does not lie in outright disobedience, but in purely trusting fully what our hearts tell us. As it is, the intuition of men is not omniscient, and should not be given full sovereignty. History has shown us how great men had been deceived repeatedly by their feelings and intuitions. A person may have acted in good faith but because he falls short of knowing what is to come, unintended consequences ensue. One such example would be the “cobra effect”.
Finally, I am not suggesting that we be counterintuitive blindly. The counterintuitions that we embrace should certainly be verified against and supported by God’s truth. When our intuition defies God’s word, do not be taken in. No matter how much your sense tells you to ignore God’s word and trust your intelligence to live life your own way, run counter to that intuition and into the amazing love and guidance of God. In a nutshell, know the truth, and question your heart again and again through prayers. As <Jer 17:10> suggests, let the Lord “search the heart and examine the mind”, such that all our life choices and deeds will come forth through a fearful and trembling heart <Phil 2:12>. This Good Friday, may Jesus’ counterintuitive love inspire our counterintuitive faith in Him.
 The British colonial government had thought that offering a reward for every cobra killed could resolve the cobra problem in India. However, the plan backfired with people starting to rear cobras to get the monetary reward. Thus, the reward system was terminated, resulting in people releasing their domestic cobras, hence making the cobra problem even worse than before.