Our culture has become quite confident in its ability to determine who should get a second chance and who should not.
How dare they, right? The “cancel culture” nonsense has really gotten out of hand.
Maybe. But what if you and I are just as guilty of trying to be an arbiter of who is right and who is wrong?
Even as Christ-followers, we find time and time again that we too desire to take on this role of God. We want to be in control. We want to be The Judge. In fact, if we’re honest, we believe we are a GOOD Judge. I cannot deny that deep down, a sinful part of me believes I am the best arbiter not only of what is best for me, but of what is best for other people I love, and even for the whole of society.
Since we love to act as if we are God in so many areas of our lives, it’s no surprise that our society has found a new way to play God: by deciding who should be cast aside, who should be forgiven, and who should be given a second chance.
As much as we might say the people “out there” are canceling people, perhaps we should be honest that each of us has probably acted out of self-righteousness and “canceled” someone prior to the term “cancel culture” ever existing.
Jesus Could Have Cancelled Us
As I consider the anger and vitriol Jesus could have for each of us sinners who regularly run from Him, I am reminded that He never has and never will cancel us. He does not run from us. In fact, no matter what mistake or attempt to control we make, he will leave the 99 to chase down that one sheep — and that sheep has probably been you at one time or another (Matthew 18:10-14). He will welcome us with open arms when He finds us “sitting in darkness” (Micah 7:7). He forgives us no matter what we have done and that is why the gospel is so counterintuitive to our culture.
As I reflect on what it means that Jesus is coming during this Advent season, I am driven to repent of the small ways in which I have “canceled” people through the years, and the ways in which Jesus called me to something else. Some examples that come to mind for me:
- Writing off and tuning out a church leader after a couple lackluster sermons
- Not being as helpful as I ordinarily am to someone at my job because of one snarky email they sent me
- Distrusting someone after they missed a meeting with me without advance notice
Why couldn’t I instead respond as Jesus would have, who knows the entire backstory of what is going on in each of our lives?
- That church leader might have spent the past week meeting one-on-one with people who were struggling to continue in the faith, or a couple that was considering separating.
- That email I received was written in haste and by someone who has only worked in cultures where that kind of behavior is accepted and normalized. I can respond with kindness without losing anything.
- That meeting-skipper could have had a family emergency, woke up dealing with mental health issues, or any number of serious issues that could have caused their absence.
If I can admit that I’ve written off people in these ways (and failed to respond in the manner Jesus would have), I suspect we all could name some similar (and worse) examples of how we acted in self-righteousness. Perhaps our sin has paved the way for this “cancel culture,” and perhaps we ought to reflect this Christmas season about what it means that Jesus humbled himself.
He humbled himself by becoming human — born in a dirty manger who needed caring for just as any other infant would. His ministry was centered on calling out the self-righteousness in the Pharisees, Saducees, and even His own followers. We must sacrifice to be His followers and give up our desire to be the arbiter of who is right and who is wrong. To do otherwise is counter to His mission and ministry.
“He loves us too much to let us stay as we are”
Recently, I reread a book I first read in 2013 about silence and solitude. This gem was tucked away in Chapter 10, which highlights how easily we allow our thinking to distort our reality and how much God desires to shape us into being more like Him:
This is the most important kind of knowing in the human experience, and it comes only as we are quiet enough to let the faithful presence of God hold us in our brokenness until our brokenness is healed by love. All other kinds of knowing merely set the stage for this. As painful as it is, the process of seeing ourselves as we are and allowing God to do His work in the place that needs it most is full of grace. It offers the opportunity to break out of patterns of thinking and believing which distort our reality, condition our responses to others and prevent us from living as a free self in God. It offers us the opportunity to give ourselves over to the One who loves us as we are and yet loves us too much to let us stay as we are.Ruth Haley Barton, The Invitation to Silence and Solitude
This Christmas, I am reminded that He loves us too much to let us stay as we are. I am reminded that He bore the shame that none of us could (1 Peter 2:24). I am reminded of the 10,000 reasons why Jesus could have canceled me, canceled you, and in fact canceled His plan of salvation for the whole world. But He didn’t, because He’s the Son of Man: He’s endlessly merciful and full of grace. No matter how many times we mess up, all He asks of us is that we admit we cannot do it alone and confess His name above all other names.
Will you let this truth wash over you this Christmas season?
Will you willingly say yes to God’s loving desire for us to not stay as we are?
Can you forgive those who have wronged you or those you love — even if you’ve already forgiven them before?