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Peter’s Puzzling Paradox

In his classic book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, author C.S. Lewis provides us with the following memorable scene when one of the children asks Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan in anticipation of meeting him.

“Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” Susan asked.

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there is anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”

In anticipation of meeting the lordly Lion, the children desire assurance that he is safe. Mr. Beaver can offer them no such assurance. But he can assure the children that the Lion was good. This seems strange, does it not? The great feline presents the children with a puzzling paradox: how can the King be good, but not safe?

1 Peter 1:13-21 might strike us as similarly strange, for it also presents a paradox. Here we encounter God as both Father and Judge:

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially…” 1 Peter 1:17

Father and Judge?

And in addition there are two seemingly contradictory commands in this passage. In verse 13 we are commanded to:

“Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

But then in verse 17 we are commanded to:

“…conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”

Hope and fear?

Strange. Is this a contradiction? These two commands seem mutually exclusive. Since God has become my Father through the person and work of Christ doesn’t that mean he is no longer my Judge? And if I am called to hope in God, doesn’t that mean I am no longer to be afraid of him? Scholar Wayne Grudem explains:

“Fear of God is not inconsistent with loving him or knowing that he loves us. If it were, we would have to say that Old Testament believers who fear God could not also have loved him—which is clearly false—or that God did not love them—which is also clearly false. Rather, fear of displeasing our Father is the obverse side of loving him.” Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, 82.

So Peter encourages his original readers in the midst of their experience of persecution for their faith by commanding them to both hope and fear and reminding them their Father in heaven isn’t safe, but he is good and gracious and generous beyond all comprehension. And these commands and reminders couldn’t be more relevant to each of us as well.

This post is based on a sermon I preached at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville entitled, “Something Strange and Wonderful.”