October 21, 2004
Derek Webb said the best thing that could happen to us is that our sin would be broadcast on the evening news. I thought that sounded like a cool thing to say. I have said it to people several times since then, and it is definitely a cool thing to say.
It is not very cool to believe though. I hate the thought of my sin being broadcast anywhere.
I was talking with some fraternity guys about grace the other day. They like the idea of grace because they are pretty sure they need some, and more on Monday than other days. We were talking about grace because we have been talking all semester about how we can become the kind of people who want what God wants.
So far we have decided that it is difficult to make yourself want something that you don’t. That is why we sin, because at least in that moment, we want to. One day we thought about how people who are in love do stuff they never would have imagined doing. Guys go to the mall and buy teddy bears. So we supposed that our wants could be changed if we were in love. But we also found it difficult to decide to fall in love, even with God. Love is something that happens to you, you know. You don’t just decide to do it.
Then we looked at the Bible. It seems like people loved Jesus because they first experience His love for them (see Luke 7:47). So then the question became, “How do we experience God’s love?”
So that is how we got to talking about grace. They said they believe in grace and that they are forgiven of their sin and unconditionally loved. But when the conversation turned to their actual life and , what they really believe, they were inconsistent. They received God’s love like they received a paycheck. On a test they would say that it is free and unconditional. But really they want to measure up, want to feel like they are plenty loveable. They want to keep their dignity.
I’m like that. Sometimes I act as if God will love me if I can just manage to get people to love me, even if what they love is pretense. If people like me, I think, then God should too.
I was beginning to think that none of us experienced God’s love the way we could. That’s when Derek Webb’s question came to mind. I asked them how they would feel about all their sin being published on the front page of The Daily Texan. Everything they thought and said and felt and did from the previous day, all of it published each day in the school newspaper. “Would you like that?” I said.
They all said that they would not like that. Then they looked at me like I was an idiot for asking.
I inquired, “Why not?”
“What do you mean, ‘why not’? The same reason you don’t want to get hit in the face? It just doesn’t feel good.”
“Okay. I understand that. But could there be anything good about it?”
“Well, what wouldn’t feel good, specifically?”
“Everyone would know that …”
(I interrupted) … “That you’re a s-s-s-sinner?
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, I know that people know I sin, but I don’t necessarily want them to know exactly how I sin.”
“Yeah, but if everyone knew everything about us then we could stop pretending to be something we are not … What would you have left if you were totally exposed like that? You wouldn’t have your dignity. What would you have?”
One of them eventually spoke up, “I would have God’s love.”
I pretended that was the answer I was looking for. I had no idea what I was looking for. But what that guy said was gold. If we try to hold on to our image or reputation or dignity, we are not likely to cling to God’s love. We end up falling in love with ourselves and not with God. Perhaps that is why we so often want what we want.