Word-y Wednesday/Theology Thursday Two-fer
Today, my Paul and I spent half of our Christmas at Brother-John‘s. It was boisterous and happy, and crowded with friends and family. Two friends started asking us in some detail about our faith, so we had a fairly intense (if frequently interrupted) conversation. During no part of that conversation did any of us, at any time, mention Duck Dynasty. But I feel that our conversation touched on a topic related to the brouhaha that developed around that show last week–namely, sin.
Whatever his other faults, this guy seems pretty clear about the fact that he’s a sinner.
I don’t typically blog about current events, and that’s partly why I waited until now to say anything about the shenanigans that ensued after Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ. (After all, an event is hardly current when a week has elapsed, right?) Actually, I still don’t want to. Maybe someday I’ll discuss my own take on homosexuality here–but I don’t have any plans to do so. I don’t watch the show (maybe two episodes) so I’m not overly invested in it. I think there were some better ways Robertson could have answered the interview questions which got him in so much trouble, and still have avoided compromising his beliefs, but he didn’t. If A&E were getting fed up with the “religious” bent of this family, as the scuttlebutt goes, they probably could have communicated that better, too, but they didn’t. Double-standards, which flew fast and furiously from both sides of the ideological drama that followed the interview, drive me completely bonkers, but I don’t really want to talk about those, either.
What I want to talk about is something that came up in the Robertson interview, and in our conversation this evening, and which I believe has a whole lot to do with Christmas. While I recognise that a whole lot of things on both sides of the aisle contributed to last week’s kerfuffle, I think a misunderstanding of Phil Robertson’s (and many, many other Christians’ through the ages) concept of sin was part of the problem. A lot of people got bent out of shape that Robertson “compared homosexuality to bestiality,” but I don’t think that’s where the offense lies. If you want to get offended about something, get offended at the idea that a) everybody sins and b) all sin separates us from God. I happen to believe that myself (and about myself), and I think it’s entirely valid for me (or Robertson) not only to hold to that view but to talk about it, but I do get that it’s not a popular one.
From that perspective, there’s really no grade of severity between, say, not paying back a loan of a couple of bucks, and bestiality. None of us are exempt from the charge of sinner, because we’ve all violated God and/or each other and/or our environment at some time or another. There may be a difference between sins in terms of temporal consequences, social acceptability, what have you, but in terms of marring the image of God and throwing up barriers between us and Him? It’s all devastating. From that perspective also, it’s more or less irrelevant what the specific sin is.
So here’s where Christmas comes in. By which I mean, here’s where Christ comes in. By which I mean, here’s where God steps in. We’re all broken mirrors, folks, made to reflect the image of God but only managing to do so to an extent, in shards and fragments. Furthermore, we can’t fix ourselves. It’s endemic. Something cosmic happened at the beginning of the world at the hands of human beings (who, not realising how godlike we already were, decided to try to make ourselves like God). This cosmic brokenness and rebelliousness got into the DNA of the Universe, and not one of us is born capable of consistently not sinning.
But God is capable. And God loves us. And God knows that the most fulfilled we will ever be is when we are in such a restored relationship with Him, that He shines right out of us. But what do you do when a relationship is broken? Someone has to make the first move. So God did. Rather than lording it over us, rather than saying (as the smirk-worthy bumper-sticker says) “Don’t make me come down there!” rather than forcing Himself and His ways on us, He took our nature on Himself, and showed up here, on our very own planet, in a barn in an occupied country, on our footing.
Pretty much the antithesis to God’s approach, actually . . .
Then, because He was and is completely internally consistent–He knew who He was and didn’t need to try to be more Godlike, or even to hang on to His divinity, He lived a divinely perfect human life and took the brokenness and guilt and rebellion–yes, sin–of all of us onto Himself, and wiped it out. We’re free, if we want it, and then He leads us into all truth, and into a lifestyle that reflects Him. It’d behoove us not to forget that this transformation, this restoration, is never instantaneous, and like addicts, every single one of us–from the Robertsons to me to A&E–will struggle with sin in this life. (Whether we admit to it is another matter, I guess, but not the topic of this post.) No matter what side of the aisle we’re on, we should extend grace to each other, because (to mix a metaphor) we’re really all in the same boat on this one, no matter what we think the sins of Those Other People are.
Because of Christmas, there’s a God who struggled with sin, too, and beat it. He’s paid off our debt already. Now He wants to help us beat sin, too, one day at a time.
That’s pretty much what I tried to tell our friends this evening, whether or not they got it. I think that is what Phil Robertson was trying to say, too, even if nobody got that either. But don’t take our word for it. There’s a way better Word than that.
The One who became flesh and made His dwelling among us.