Who I Wish I Was

We must fully recapture what grace really means before we understand how to use social-media.

I wish I was about 15 pounds of muscle heavier.
I wish I was able to dunk like Kobe Bryant.
I wish I was able to raise meat chickens and farm off the land.
I wish I was like Joe Rogan.
I wish I lived in a van and traveled across America.

These are all the things that my YouTube “Recommended” section reveals about me. Beyond that there are certain “How-To” videos to live a life of productivity, accomplishment, relevance, and fitness! Chalk it up to my lack of self-discipline but none of them have been able to fully deliver on the life I wish I could accomplish for myself.

But that hasn’t stopped me from trying to convince myself and others that I’m a finished product. That’s at least one of the inevitable temptations of social media: to present ourselves as somewhere near perfect. Anything less than that is either turned into a meme, comedy – or both.

Except that we’re all weary of “perfect.”
Photoshop has done damage to our body-image.
We’ve all grown a little bored with the game.

Unfortunately, church leaders, Christians, and whole churches fall prey to this same temptation. The minute an inspiring worship leader or incredible communicator is seen on social media – it is often seen through the lens of a finished product, ready for consumption and criticism.

There is very little room for journey, confusion, frustration, or searching in the world of social media – which has become the main world in which we self-communicate.

If the church portrays perfection, without sharing the process, then all we provide people is the motivation to perform and to pretend. We already have that inborn critic telling us that we should have figured things out by now. But the minute we see other people who are convincingly put together then the only thing we can manage is to pretend along with them and pray nobody is the wiser.

The overriding temptation on social media is to showcase perfection. But what if the real power of the platform is to show something entirely different?

We all know what perfect is supposed to look like. Ironically enough, it’s the process that goes undocumented, hidden away, and airbrushed. But the real power of our platforms exists in sharing the process rather than the pretended perfection!

This is because victory in this life is not something we arrive at by our own power at all! Instead of the self-triumphant victory we imagine, victory is not properly ours at all. It’s God’s.

Psalm 3:8, “Victory belongs to the LORD!”
Proverbs 21:31, “A horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”
Isaiah 43:11, “I, yes I, am the LORD, and there is no Savior but Me.”

We don’t overcome addiction, depression, anxiety, insecurity, any and all sin without falling on our knees in self-defeat, self-hopelessness and in prayer. Over and over and over and over and over again.

If you doubt me, just reflect on what Paul has to say in Ephesians 1,

God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:4-6

Did you catch that? What Paul is saying here is that God’s victory in and through what Jesus Christ accomplished was planned from the very beginning of time! Now, this might not seem controversial at first, but then consider that what Paul is referring to is the worst thing in human history: the execution of God Himself!

In other words, the very worst sin ever to be committed was co-opted by God as the very means of His victory! It was by sin and death that God triumphed!

By our sin God shows us that we don’t have what it takes.
By our sin God shows us that He’s the only hope we have.
By our sin God shows us that His love extends to the depths of depravity – and beyond – for us.

But how about our less drastic failings, such as our pettiness, our inadequacy, our insufficiency, our boring personality, our lack of talent, our awkwardness? What does God do with all of those? Paul responds:

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

1 Corinthians 1:28-29

What this means for you and me is that it’s precisely by allowing God’s grace to meet us in our sin and in our total patheticness that we grow. The real power exists in the process of meeting God again and again and again! That’s what growth looks like! It doesn’t look like the finished product (there is no such thing in this life anyways)! It looks like falling into the arms of our Father every single time we fail! Because with each failure we grow to understand another dimension of His love for us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

The operative word here is still.

Still a mess.
Still a wreck.
Still confused.
Still uncertain.
Still an addict.
Still depressed.

Grace refuses to meet us anywhere except for the places where we still haven’t a clue about what to do, where to go, or why things are the way they are. If God seems distant, perhaps it’s because you’re running from the very place He insists on meeting you.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I do think that real wholeness can be achieved in this life with the grace that God provides us, it’s just that His grace doesn’t just give us a real shot at perfection it also gives us the permission to reveal our imperfections – indeed, to boast in them as Paul did (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Showcasing those imperfect moments of the process would certainly cause a photoshopped world, bored with “perfect,” to stop scrolling.


The Church of Solutions

The church must let go of its fixation with laws and fix its eyes on the real solution: person-to-person transformation.

Ask those who know me and they’ll tell you that my eyes have always been too big for my stomach! Both literally and figuratively I’ve consistently bitten off more than I can chew. Whether it’s been with sports, school, food, or any of my unmet New Years expectations, I usually overestimate my abilities and my limits.

The church has done a similar thing with its fixation with culture, politics, and society. With an eye for power and a misconception of what real influence looks like, Christians have allowed their agendas to be coopted by politicians whose allegiances are at best hopelessly divided between money and ideology. Somewhere in the crowded heart of a Congressman, I would imagine, there is a real concern for their constituents. But every human being is far too flawed to be a real Messiah.

Take a look at the recent response to #BlackLivesMatter. Our national narrative has become a narrative of either/or and never both/and. We are forced to pick a side between those who are concerned for minorities lives and wellbeing in this nation versus those who are concerned for the preservation of this nation’s founding principles and convictions.

(First, just as an aside, notice how these two things are actually not in contradiction! One can desire and fight for this nation to become an equal opportunity provider for all regardless of their socio-economic background, and that is in line with our nation’s convictions!)

While the Christian voting bloc is noticeably diversifying to fall more evenly among the right and the left, it still seems to the casual observer that most Christians unsurprisingly vote Republican. Avid Christian pro-lifers and moral traditionalists have always found common language with those who have a more conservative outlook on the world. And yet, the Christian left has become likewise a vocal proponent for those who are concerned with progressing into a nation whose day-to-day operations are more consistent with its founding principles.

In spite of all of this, the main goal of the Kingdom of God remains overlooked. The reason for this is simply this: no amount of legislation will ever usher in the reign of King Jesus.

This should have been obvious to us from Scripture. If strict and legalistic observance of the Mosaic law couldn’t have brought in God’s Spirit, then how is it that we thought that Constitutional Amendments and Congressional legislation would be any different?

In Matthew 23, Jesus warned us:

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Matthew 23:1-4

Contrary to our human impulses, Jesus warns those who follow him to avoid the legislative seat. The reason for this is obvious: it places a heavy load on people’s shoulders.

Now, I don’t want to be misleading here. The context into which Jesus is speaking is not exactly parallel to our own, but it is at least strikingly similar. The Pharisees were instructing their people to go above and beyond in their observance of Torah in the hopes that the people’s national righteousness would coerce God to descend from heaven and reign in Jerusalem. But this is also very similar to the Christian outlook on America: that if we can vote in enough Christian laws then we will ensure God’s blessing remains on our country and we’ll continue to be numero uno on the world stage.

Tangentially, but importantly, Christians are concerned that we’ll become persecuted if we lose too much influence, that our nation will slide into sin, and ultimately that we’ll invite God’s judgment on all of us.

But returning to Jesus’s original warning to us, we are not to sit in the legislative seat but rather to help the people.

He continues in the same chapter:

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Matthew 23:11

And he says just a few chapters later:

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:40

The greatest, most contributive member of God’s Kingdom is not he who legislates righteousness, but who embodies the righteousness of God by their service to the least of these! It’s not that these political causes are not worth fighting for, it’s that fighting for them by the voting ballot is not enough!

We can legislate all we want, but the heart of our nation remains untouched.
We can outlaw abortion, but it will still happen in back alleyways.
We can preserve traditional marriage, but the LGBTQ community will remain.
We can implement stronger boarder laws, yet underlying racism continues.

What, then, is the solution for making a better world? Ironically enough, it’s you and me. The church itself is the solution. It is the testament to the worldly powers of a better day dawning, of a new creation that is beginning to bud, of a new humanity that is overwriting the sins of the previous one.

It is the church, and only the church, that possess the spiritual power and authority to go against the way the world is and instead bring about the kingdom of God. This is one of the meanings of what Paul describes when he says:

“God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11

If you didn’t catch that, here’s what Paul’s point is: God’s glory, wisdom, and authority would become seen and known through the church! That in triumphing over racism in communities, the world’s leaders would take pause and consider. That in triumphing over unplanned pregnancies with grace and adoption, the world’s lobbyists would be defanged.

How are we to accomplish this? Well, that’s a longer conversation than just one post, but let me put these ideas forward:

If you care strongly about abortion, then adopt an unwanted child before you protest and lobby against Roe v. Wade.

If you care strongly about traditional marriage, then model celibacy either as a single person or a married person by spending time, touch, teamwork, and transparency with someone with same-sex attraction before you go to the voting booth.

If you care strongly about immigration reform, then consider inviting an immigrant family from the very countries you are afraid of to dinner in your home before you seek stronger border laws.

If you care strongly about racial equality, then consider befriending an older, white, conservative couple, and inviting them to dinner with some minority culture friends of yours.

We have yet to see the church in America mobilized to address the real societal problems we face. But the more we claim the authority that is our birthright in Christ, to triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil, we will no longer delegate the world’s problems to our politicians, but instead shoulder them as problems the church alone can fix.