Would you not agree that Jesus was the greatest Teacher to walk the earth? You may have tried to imitate some of the ways in which he taught, such as his use of questions and illustrations. Did you ever consider, though, that he often used contrasts in his teaching?
Many people use contrasts when they speak. You too may do that, often without deliberate thought. You might say something like, “They said that all the fruit was ripe; however, these are still very hard.” Or, “She was once quite a shy child, yet now she is very outgoing.”
In cases like these, you first present a fact or an idea; then you introduce a contrast by using such expressions as but, however, rather, or on the other hand. Or you might make the contrast by adding information or by strengthening the idea. When you speak that way, it just sounds natural and can help others to get your point.
Even if contrasts are not common in some languages or cultures, we do well to recognize their value. Why? Because we find many of them in God’s inspired Word. Jesus frequently used contrasts. Recall these: “People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand.” “I came, not to destroy [the Law], but to fulfill.” “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman . . .” “It was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ However, I say to you: Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also.”
There are similar contrasts in other Bible books. They can help you to grasp a point or emphasize a superior way of doing something. If you are a parent, reflect on this contrast: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Had the apostle Paul written simply that a father (or mother) ought to bring up a child in God’s discipline, that would have been wise and true. Still, the idea comes across very clearly with the contrast ‘not irritating them but raising them in the mental-regulating of Jehovah.’
Later in that chapter, Paul wrote: “We have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) That contrast likely helps you to sense that you have a very serious fight. It is not against mere humans; rather, it is against wicked spirit forces.
BENEFIT FROM CONTRASTS
In this same Bible book, Ephesians, you will find many other texts where Paul employed contrasts. Thinking about these can help us to get Paul’s point and likely to understand more clearly what we should do.
You may find it both enjoyable and meaningful to consider the accompanying chart that sets out some contrasts that you find in Ephesians chapters 4 and 5. As you read each contrast, think about your own life. Ask yourself: ‘Honestly, what is my attitude? How do I react in this or a similar situation? Which side of the contrast would others think represents me?’ If you discern that a particular contrast brings to the fore an area you need to work on, try to do that. Let that contrast help you.
Or you may employ the chart as part of your family worship. First, all members of your family can read over the contrasts. Then one of you can mention the first part of a contrast, allowing the others in the family to try to remember the point highlighted in the second part. That could lead to a pleasant family discussion of how you could in a fuller way apply the second part. Yes, examining the contrasts like that may help young and old to pursue Christian conduct in the family and elsewhere.
As you become more aware of the value of contrasts, you may become more adept at recognizing them in the Bible, and you may find that they are very helpful in your Christian ministry. You could, for example, say to a householder: “Many people say that every person has an immortal soul, yet note what God’s Word says here.” Or on a Bible study, you might ask: “Most people in this area believe that God and Jesus are one person; however, what have we found that the Bible says? And what do you believe?”
Yes, the Scriptures present us with many instructive contrasts, which can help us to walk in God’s way. And we can use contrasts to help others come to know Bible truth.