A few blogs on how I have read the bible wrong in the past. For the introduction refer to ‘this blog’.
Tonight I watched a movie about addiction with a class of social work masters students. The movie was old, tense, irritating, kinda boring but super obvious about the sneaky, destructive tendencies of a person ravaged by unhealthy addiction.
Basically it showed a high-powered female executive, move her family to a new city and find a stress outlet in gambling on the poker machines. What began as an innocent invitation by an older woman in a family restaurant, ends in her losing her house, husband, kids, job and landed her in prison. At every turn I wanted to either yell at the screen to give her advice that would help her, or laugh deeply in my soul at the obvious parallels with my own life. When seen from outside, it is soo stupid how easily we convince ourselves of drastically simple mistruths.
She kept all of it a secret from her husband, her mother and her workmates at the charity she ran for children in need. This was not an evil woman. Just one forced into the shadows of shame, of isolation and deep risky drug-like highs that came from hoping and craving that “one last jackpot”.
Why I link this with a wrong reading of scripture?
Somehow, for whatever reason, the church built “confession” into a legalist secret club that had to be done a certain way in a secret anonymous box in the church building. I don’t know all the details, but, when Protestantism began splintering the church, most splintered sects made confession even more brain-washy or controlling, whilst others got rid of it completely. Instead of knowing each other in the community intimately, being honest with each other seemed to get thrown out the window. In the halls of Christendom I grew up in and around, confession was not even a secret, it just didn’t exist. And when our small groups of teenage boys began struggling with online porn and smoking weed, the first time we were honest with each other was like a punch to the face. A shockingly freeing punch to the face.
Why were we never taught about honesty? Why were we never given the example of the freedom that confession can bring? What asking for help looks like? Why were we never explained that the body of Christ is meant to be striving to BE better, not striving to hide better. And thus the reading of scripture….
Straight off the bat… first few chapters, Adam makes a mistake and God asks about it, giving him the opportunity to be honest and to grasp freedom. and from then on, humanity gets better and better at trying to hide from God what He already knows. We get better and better at looking great on Sunday mornings whilst we hide all our trashiness somewhere else.
Grace wasn’t given to us on the cross to just dance around telling everyone how good we are. Grace was given so we had the space to be honest with our mistakes and have the support and love to be able to fix those mistakes for next time.
In the gambling movie, it would have been a simple thing for the woman to pull her husband aside and say “I can’t go near gambling machines, help me.” but in her working environment and as the anchor of the family, the pressure got to her. She HAD to hide any weakness.
When the church becomes an elitist “good peoples” club, it ceases being a safe space for those who want to be honest. When church pastors have to be the perfect CEO, the most eloquent teachers and the most sinless of saints, more pastors burn out, or are kicked out when they can’t hold up that standard forever.
Scripture reads as the history of people that failed but were loved by a loving God anyway. It points us to a God who wants us to try, who wants us to love him. And he will help and love us while we attempt these things.
Most of us will always have habits that aren’t as great as other habits. Most of us will even KNOW that they are not as healthy as they could be. And therefore ALL of us should learn to hold out grace to all. Bucketloads of grace. Because that’s what scripture speaks of. Not a self-help guide, but a belonging in a community of LIFE guide.