Last Sunday afternoon, before the Super Bowl, I was tempted to put as my Facebook status, “Remember, everyone, God loves you whether you watch the Super Bowl or go to church tonight. He still loves you the same.”
Thirty years ago, on that Sunday night in January, you had the opportunity to prove your South Georgia holiness via your proximity to a TV set. If you were at church worshipping God, you were Holy. If you were at home watching the game with your family, you were In Sin. A church youth group Super Bowl party was a sort of middle ground: you were indulging your sin nature, but, hey, at least you prayed at some point–you probably scored some points.
This is what I was thinking about last week: how glad I am that I no longer believe in the Celestial Scorecard. And then I watched as Facebook filled up with posts from those who do.
“I’m NOT watching the half time show.”
“No Lady Gaga for ME.”
“Well, I will be turning the channel at half time.”
I teach high school English, and I know about the understood subject you. (In “Put the plates away,” the speaker intends for you to do this.) These Facebook statuses had an understood unlike you.
“Unlike you, I’m NOT watching the half time show.”
“Unlike you, no Lady Gaga for ME.”
“Unlike you 117.5 million sinners, I will be turning the channel at half time.”
Reading those statuses, I just felt so weary. The past year has left me crushed in ways that adjectives and adverbs could never capture. But it has allowed me to see positional Christianity–“I am closer to God than you because I do x and you do y“–for the sham it is because I now fully know the nothing I am. God had the mercy to show me the wasteland, the nothing I hold. And once you know your own emptiness, you know how absurd it is to have ever claimed any knowledge of fullness at all.
You understand the meaning of the words a wretch like me. You know that it is wretched to say that you didn’t watch Lady Gaga because that implies the earning of worth and our worth is unearned, and our unworthiness is infinite.
The beauty of total collapse is the complete rest that is found in powerlessness.
When you fully know that you can’t even lift your own head, when you have seen the black depths of your own soul, you can’t throw one stone at Lady Gaga. You know she is broken just like you. That she is flawed and phony and consumed by the wrong things, but so are you, and if Jesus loves you in your brokenness, this means he loves Lady Gaga, too. You are just different kinds of trash.
And you know that since you are no better than she, Jesus would invite Lady Gaga to eat with Him and tell her that he loved her and, at some point during the evening, he would probably tell her to go and sin no more, but he wouldn’t be rude, and he wouldn’t be hateful, and he wouldn’t tell her all the things she is not because He realizes she already knows what she is not.
Lady Gaga. Me. You. We all know what we are not.
Tonight, Facebook is once again full of righteousness:
“I’m not going to see 50 Shades Darker.”
“I’m glad my wife doesn’t like that trash.”
“I thank God that I married the sort of woman who would rather have both arms amputated than to watch this.” (I’m sure amputees were impressed by this particularly inclusive Christian post with its 6,890 likes.)
Once more, merit-badge-seeking Christians are advertising their own holiness, rather than Christ and his love. Christ and His salvation. They are saying look at me, look at what I am not doing. Look how good I am. But how good I am will help no one. I can do nothing. Apart from my place as a vehicle of Christ’s love, I am totally irrelevant in this fallen, hurting world. What I am doing or not doing does not matter at all if it is apart from Him.
We are all nothing. To think for one second that we are better than the millions of people in dark movie theaters this weekend is lunacy. We know Jesus. He found us in our mire. He plucked us from our pits. That we would dare create pedestals of our manure and filthy rags is the most absurd lunacy.
We were in mire and filth; they are in mire and filth. The only difference is in the tense of the verbs.
We who were broken are now rescued. And I, who on my own had no hope of even boarding the life raft, cannot taunt those who are drowning.
I can still feel the water in my lungs.