Juxtaposition: the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect.
Some things in life - some of the best things - can only be discovered by juxtaposition. Take food, for example (of which I am quite fond). There is a fascinating world of possibilities in combining the flavors, textures, colors and temperatures of various ingredients. The culinary juxtaposition that is crunchy peanut butter, salted chocolate or chicken and waffles are but a few examples. When two seemingly opposing forces collide, sometimes both take on a clearer quality and can be better appreciated as a result.
Sometimes though, juxtaposition is used to illuminate differences, without a beneficial by-product. A hardened steel nail and the soft, pliable rubber of my tire do not come alongside one another to create something new and exciting. Nor does the pop music ring-tone amidst the stirring, heart-breaking climax of the feature film. Some things don't belong together, and our appreciation (or disdain) of them only really makes sense when they are side by side.
Christian worship happens to involve both of these outcomes of juxtaposition. When sinful creatures encounter their holy Creator the contrast is striking. In fact, such a comparison increases the distinction between the two - man's wickedness and God's righteousness stand further and further apart the more they are brought together. God's righteousness is red-hot and man's sin utterly abhorrent the closer they get to one another. When we put God on display before one another, as believers we sense that contrast and our worship reflects our understanding. We understand that we need a savior - there is no bridging this massive chasm on our own.
Therein lies the other profound juxtaposition in our worship. Elizabeth C. Clephane describes it succinctly in her hymn, Beneath the Cross of Jesus:
Upon the cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One
who suffered there for me:
And from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess,
The wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.
Jesus Christ on the cross is the link - the only link - between the impassable chasm between Creator and fallen creature. In taking on human flesh and dying in the place of sinners, Jesus juxtaposed both the Father's redeeming love and our simultaneous unworthiness of that love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)
Anyone who is looking to the cross for a Savior has nothing of worth to bring. Strength, skill, name, fame, youth, beauty, wealth, wisdom - all are weightless payments on the scales of justice. Only Christ crucified offers a sacrifice pleasing to Lord. Jesus on the cross reveals to us who we really are - astoundingly, both infinitely valuable and totally unworthy of the love we have received by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Each gathering of corporate worship is an opportunity to make much of the contrast between God and man, and then run to the cross and place our faith in the One who reconciles God and man. In the words of John Stott:
"Standing before the cross we see simultaneously our worth and unworthiness, since we perceive both the greatness of His love in dying, and the greatness of our sin in causing Him to die." (from 'The Cross of Christ')
My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love at the cross
My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed at the cross
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest treasure, Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone
As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us at the cross
I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ at the cross
Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed, my ransom paid at the cross
Keith Getty | Kristyn Getty | Graham Kendrick © 2014 Gettymusic and Make Way Music