Two Sides to Every Story: How Opposites Attract In Dynamic Movements

[Diagram: The Dynamo]


‘The person who tells one side of a story sounds right until someone else comes and asks questions’- Proverbs 18:17

There are two sides to every story…

The wisdom is in understanding how to bring these two sides together in dynamic movement

Husbands and Wives, two becoming one, is a Divine Mystery and perfect illustration of how opposites can come together. Jesus talks about this when he says ‘God made them male and female from the beginning of creation. This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no split apart what God has joined together.’

The phenomenon of two becoming one is a profound mystery…

How do two complete opposites become one? 

How do opposites flow in dynamic tension to catalyze movement?

[By the way- this post is not just about marriage, or about conceptual matters concerning opposites, but on how opposite dynamics work together in movements- I would encourage you to read to the end…]



It’s all a matter of timing…

‘For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…

A time to be born and a time to die

A time to plant and a time to harvest

A time to kill and a time to heal

A time to tear down and a time to build up

A time to cry and a time to laugh

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones

A time to embrace and a time to turn away

A time to time to search and a time to quit searching

A time to keep and a time to throw away

A time to tear and a time to mend

A time to be quiet and a time to speak

A time to love and a time to hate

A time for war and a time for peace’

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-8



Notice this list of contradictory activity and inclination. How can one advocate for both war and peace? Which is right? Or another example- some say it’s never ‘time to tear down’ whereas others constantly tear down. Some people might say it’s never right to go to war whereas others go to war all the time.

In view of such paradox, some would point to seeming contradictions in the Bible as a reason to question it’s validity. One example actually relates to war and peace;

Isaiah 2:4 says, ‘The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore’


Joel 3:9-10 says, ‘Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack. Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors.’

Notice the completely opposite instructions and inclinations in these passages!

Perhaps what’s important is not so much which is right…but what’s the right thing at the right time

There’s both a time for war and a time for peace (whether you interpret these passages ‘spiritually’, ‘conceptually’, ‘metaphorically’ or ‘literally’)

This does not just apply to the war/peace spectrum, but for all of the spectrums listed by Solomon, the Wisdom Writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the passage above. It’s wisdom to know and understand the times and seasons and what we should do. It’s also important for us to be able to hold contradiction in dynamic tension

So which is right- war or peace (both and neither)! [But for those who are asking ‘what time and season are we in in Europe spiritually at a meta-level, when it comes to a time of war or peace’…HERE is what I’ve sensed and heard from facilitating Listening Gatherings and Houses of Prayer across the continent]



Contrapuntal is the technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.

How can two opposites flow in dynamic tension and harmonic relationship?

Consider the kindness and severity of God (Romans 11:22). Many find this hard to understand- how can God be both kind and severe? Some would caricature these different sides of God into almost two different Gods- the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, whilst others would seek to convey God as only one or the other reinterpreting scripture to match their position on who God really is.

A similar dynamic can be at work amongst those who emphasise ‘grace’ and those who emphasise ‘truth’. (it’s interesting that Jesus emphasised both grace and truth- other interesting dichotomies include Jesus as both Lion+Lamb, emphasis on Spirit+Truth or Word+Spirit, Judgment+Mercy, Wine+Wineskins and so on)

Because of this Tension of Two, many remain either confused or become dogged about their one-sided position. These tensions don’t only exist in the Church world but also in Politics (Left-vs-Right), Economics (Capitalist-vs-Communist) and all other Spheres of Society. This post does not seek to answer theological conundrums or complex ideologies raised by all this but to highlight the benefit of understanding the creative tension of two in our work towards movements that change the world…

One comment I would make here though is: Not Everything is Simply Black or White



How does this dynamic tension of two work itself out practically?

Here’s an example:

In the process of Starting up New Things (giving birth) you need opposites to attract to birth something new (hence Husbands and Wives becoming one and giving birth to babies)

Jesus, in his wisdom sent disciples out in 2’s at the beginning of his Pioneer Mission process (see here)

When on the job the following tensions can naturally occur:


Should we stay or should we go [a question of mode of operation]:

When first beginning a work- the flow is towards the GO dynamic. We must leave our comfort and be propelled/sent out to begin a new work. But once we find what we are looking for (Person of Peace) we must switch the dynamic to STAY (don’t move around from house to house but stay in the place that has welcomed you).

However, what tends to happen is that those who have more passion around the Pray+Go rhythm constantly operate in that dynamic and don’t switch mode, whereas those who Gather+Train constantly operate in that dynamic and don’t shift focus when necessary

The beauty is in understanding the dynamic tension between these opposite poles that must work together in a Go+Stay-Stay+Go flux


Should we move fast or slowly? [a question of pace]

Related to this first dynamic-tension is understanding the two paces of our mission and work- FAST+SLOW

At the start of something new- we must move swiftly, but once we have something that is fruitful, we must move slower in the development process…

Staying with the Social Circle of people we’ve found and training them is a slower process than going quickly out into the streets to find many people


-What Type of Organisation or Environment is Better? [a question of vision+values]

This principle of the TWO SIDES has been outlined in these missiological terms; Sodal/Modal (organising principle); two forms of one church movement. This principle also relate to continuity and change, task-based versus relationship-based orientation and so on (Dr Ralph Winter wrote about this under the title, ‘The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission’)


-What Type of Person Are We Looking For?

In Mission we need both Pioneers and Developers (settlers) and in Business we need both Entrepreneurial Leaders and Organisational Managers (modes of operation)

Back/Front (operations). In Dynamic Movements there are those who are Out Front AND those who are Out Back. I past a sign on the street recently that said, ‘When we’ve got your back, you can have more FRONT’

Those who PIONEER tend to exhibit certain leanings and behaviours and those who DEVELOP tend to exhibit many of the opposite tendencies and behaviours- this can lead to tensions resulting in unnecessary splits with all the developers in one community and all the pioneers in another team

Walt Disney learnt to manage these polar opposites through what he called his IMAGINEERS and his ENGINEERS. He put them in completely separate spaces, only bringing them together at strategically managed intervals. Even though they were in separate spaces they all worked in the same movement (or organisation)


-What Kind of Communication is Needed in a Movement?

Myers Briggs has come up with a helpful framework that helps teams understand how they and others operate. For example: Feelers and Thinkers…

My wife is a ‘Feeler’ and I am predominately (and particularly since being married) a ‘Thinker’.

But which is right?

Another well known example would be Introvert/Extrovert tendencies…

The tension lies not in knowing the need for this Dynamic Tension between Two Opposites but in understanding the people who are so different to us and why we need them!



These Opposites Play Themselves Out in Thousands of Different Ways…

So which of these twos are needed in Movements? Where should the emphasis be?







Of course- in each couplet, we need BOTH, there is a time for everything under the sun. There are times when we need one, then the other, but also times when we need both simultaneously, resulting in the DYNAMIC TENSION OF THE TWO…



What mode do you prefer (or see as intrinsically ‘right’?); fast/slow, back/front, pioneer/develop, start/finish, thinker/feeler and so on and so on…(be honest)

Jesus makes an interesting comment in Matt 11:17

When we played a wedding song for you, you didn’t dance and when we played a funeral song, you didn’t mourn…’

Whilst understanding the need for opposites to attract, we must be careful that we don’t fall into the same pattern of behaviour as the religious people of Jesus’ day…

When John the Baptist arrived on the scene he fasted often, lived in rough environments and had an unusual appearance- the religious people didn’t accept him as one sent by God because they couldn’t understand his approach…

When Jesus arrived on the scene, he operated in what seemed the polar opposite to the Baptist; he ate and drank, hung-out with notorious sinners, including prostitutes and the religious people called him a glutton, drunk and ‘friend of sinners’- they wouldn’t accept him as having come from God either…

When God said ‘Go’ to the Israelites in relation to occupying the Promise Land they refused

When God then told them they would ‘Stay’ in the desert- they decided it was time to ‘Go’

Sometimes misunderstanding opposites is simply that; a misunderstanding- and so we must learn to live with understanding and also within dynamic tension preferring one another and seeking to really actively listen and understand our opposite (those completely different from ourselves both in their nature, their actions and styles)

But sometimes we can feign ‘misunderstanding’ simply because we don’t want to put into practice something that seems alien to us, or that will personally cost us something of ourselves and so we become ‘stubborn’ and ‘stiff-necked’ as a result, hindering any form of movement in the process

What or Who Don’t You Understand?

Maybe God wants you to Partner with them to See True Movements Come to Fruition in Our Day…

Or Perhaps You’ve Been Stuck in One Gear…One Half of the Equation…and Need to Shift into the Opposite Mode for a While?


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve October 30, 2017 at 9:37 am

A great and fascinating read.. Love this peter…


Peter J. Farmer October 30, 2017 at 9:48 am

Thanks Steve!


Tim Harrold October 31, 2017 at 7:30 pm

As Charlie Brown famously postulated, “How can you do ‘new math’ problems with an ‘old math’ mind?”


Peter J. Farmer November 1, 2017 at 10:05 am

What do you think that means in relation to this article Tim?


Tim Harrold November 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm

It’s being transformed by the renewing of your mind. It’s not dwelling on the past but perceiving (not just seeing) the new thing.
Another apparent contradiction is the Prince of Peace who didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. I don’t think this meant believers down the ages should take up arms (as many have), but that Jesus came to divide – between people of peace, and people of war. Sheep and goats, if you like.
Meanwhile, those who live by the sword, die by the sword. The world deals with the world, and yes, God acts through politics and the like.
Christians join the armed forces or become conscientious objectors: who is right? God uses angels in times of war (‘just’ war?) – at Mons, in the Battle of Britain, and the Six Day War.
The ‘old math’ mind cannot cope with tension: it’s law-centred. The ‘new math’ mind looks for grace and justice: it’s love-centred.
Is there a time ‘for’ war, or a time when there is war? Is there a time ‘for’ peace, or a time when there is peace? And the war we’re engaged in – which has not only been won – is not against flesh, but against principalities and powers…


Paul November 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Thanks Peter. As I read I thought of that scripture in Eph 5 about submitting to one another in reverence to Christ. This is something I believe the church needs to grow in, & it starts with leaders.


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