Can The Worst Become Best?
Ever notice how the worst often becomes the best? The kid with worst teeth gets braces, making his the straightest on the block. Saul, the persecutor of Christians, becomes Paul, the Christian Apostle.
Granted, sometimes the worst stays the worst. Some kids have terribly crooked teeth with no opportunity to get them fixed. And some people stay bad: Pharaoh, the persecutor of the Jews, only went from bad to worse.
And granted, sometimes those who start out with everything end up rising to even higher greatness. Joseph in the Bible was a good egg all along, yet still ended up with even more power and influence. And my brother Joe had braces, though I always thought his teeth looked pretty good from the start.
An Analogy From The Biggest Loser TV Show
Have you seen the show, "The Biggest Loser?" It’s clever. It takes grossly overweight individuals and puts them in a contest to see who can lose the most weight by body percent. The title is a misnomer, as the biggest loser is in fact the biggest winner: he gets $250,000, fame, and loses enough weight to be considered healthy again.
What this show has to do with my opening observation is that some of the people on this show go from being the most obese (400+ pounds!) to some of the fittest, in shape fellows. Incredible.
I watched the season finale at my brother Joe’s house this past Tuesday (yes, the same one with now straight teeth). Ironically, we ate snacks through the entire two hours.
What struck me most was the liberating transformation of the participants’ attitudes, not just their bodies. Seeing people step from an old depressed self into freedom was inspiring. I’ll admit, when I see a grossly obese individual in public (sometimes so heavy they ride around on a motorized scooter), it’s tempting to forget there’s a human soul in there, with feelings and emotions.
And some of the participants were pretty gross looking at the beginning. I feel sheepish to admit most these people would have been the type I’d have written off in my mind as slobs with no ambition. But by the end of the eight months these same people had completely transformed and you could feel their pride over the change: They had been set free and were beaming!
And they were all quick to give credit where it was due: "We never could have done it on our own," they each said.
As the new, thinner, disciplined personas emerged, it was satisfying to realize how likeable these people really were. They were great people who had become trapped in destructive cycles of poor choices, hopelessness, and depression. But now they were set free, hopeful regarding their future, and joyful. It makes me look at obesity in a new light, in light of what could be.
We are ALL Biggest Losers
I think this is how God views all of us in our sin. With our yucky hearts (with which we ALL will act out as much as we can get away with), we’re a lot like the Biggest Losers on the TV show.
But thankfully for us God looks beyond our sin sickness to envision what could be. Where others are revolted, God envisions redemption and healing. God doesn’t see addicts, he sees people in captivity in desperate need of freedom.
And there is no one too far gone for God to not be able to reach down and free.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
What about Real Life? What about Andrew Henderson?
Ok, hold on as this post is about to take a disturbing turn…
In light of the sickening story that hit the Wichita Eagle this past week about one of The Biggest Losers we could envision (convicted rapist Andrew Henderson) let me go on a limb and say God doesn’t see a rapist, he sees a selfish, rebellious human being who in fact despises his own actions, is ensnarled by lies, and has a crater in his soul which can only be filled by love, and that only if he has a repentant heart.
Boy, I hate to open this can of worms, but since my motto is, "life is messy," I guess I will. Andrew Henderson’s story gets to the heart of "life is messy." You can find the article on kansas.com (linked above) but be warned, it’s disturbing.
What I found most fascinating in the article was where it broached the subject of forgiveness. In particular, how the girls’ rescuer Shelly was treating Andrew now that he is in prison and the change Andrew has made since being put in prison five years ago:
Almost immediately after she saved them, Shelly began doing things that baffled and upset the twins. She wrote Andrew in prison, hinting at kindness. She worried that judgmental inmates might hurt him. His answer surprised her: Putting him behind bars was the best thing anyone did for him, he told her. He said he would not have stopped. He said he was sorry.
The twins scoffed when they heard this.
And after she [Shelly] reached out, some neighbors confessed to disgust. They should burn, one said of the Henderson males. Why are you being nice to them? Monsters.
Shelly felt sorry for these critics. What kind of Christianity was that?
“I’m not foolish about Andrew,” she said one day, with Kathie sitting beside her on the couch. “He hurt the girls too much. I want him to be punished too. But of course he can be forgiven. What Christian should think otherwise?”
The comments at the bottom of this article on kansas.com are boiling – you can feel the scathing heat as people blast Shelly’s forgiving attitude and lash out toward a God who would let this type of evil continue for years. Where was God? Why didn’t he intervene?
This comment (edited) is typical:
…you say, "God will always be there for you”?
And he sure proved it every moment these children prayed & cried & begged for help.
We are All Born Captive to Sin
The existence of evil is perhaps the most serious accusation leveled against Christianity.
In light of the current Christmas season, is all really well here on earth? And what about the angels who appeared, heralding, “Peace on earth, good will toward men?” (listen to these two clips in my last post for poignant dramatizations)
*sigh* the problem is we all deserve death because of our sins. We all have the dreaded disease.
One person commented on the Henderson article with this same thought:
Jesus came to save sinners, and in his eyes all sin is the same. Obviously, the consequences are much sadder in the case of a pedophile, but sin is still sin. -kansas.com
Last Saturday I went to a Hare Krishna lecture (long story) and guess what the message about? Our need for cleansing from the impurities in our hearts.
I would suggest all humanity knows instinctively there is something broke inside us, that we are guilty. This is true whether we are from India or North America.
We have all rebelled against God.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life…"
Andrew was simply at an advanced stage of acting out.
Why did he go so far? I would say, “Because he was getting away with it.” And I would also say that every human being alive would stoop to the same level of depravity and even lower if left unchecked.
“Why don’t we then?” Because there are usually negative consequences. For Andrew the negative consequences were temporarily removed, though they did eventually catch up to him.
Here’s the kicker: Refraining from evil to not get punished is not living in freedom from ones own sin nature. You can tell who is really free by who remains upright when the societal norms are removed.
For example, when soldiers were given orers to perform acts against humanity in the Holocaust, many did so quite readily.
My point is this: If you have not been set free from sin by God, you will always slip down to the lowest denominator you can get away with. It may be lying, office gossip, slander, using people for your own benefit, lusting in your mind, despising your brother, or getting drunk, but all these are indicitaive of one who has not been set free from sin.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
We might not like it when someone receives forgiveness because we want them to burn. But this attitude is dangerous because we all deserve to burn. It is only by God’s grace there is hope for any of us.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Can God Bring Freedom to Perpetrators and Healing to Victims?
Humans are the ones who screw things up and hurt other humans by our own selfish decisions. God gave us free wills and he lets us use them.
But God is also in the business of healing, redeeming what we break.
It’s ironic how God’s grace is actually magnified when he works transformation in Biggest Losers, taking the disgusting and transforming it into a highly prized possession of value.
When I read this letter Andrew wrote the reporter of the article from prison I have to wonder, “Has God set Andrew free?” I don’t know, but Andrew does sound genuinely repentant, which is a good first step…
What about the victims? Can they find healing?
I believe God is able to make all well and bring healing to victims of denigrating evil; whether they be holocaust survivors like Corrie ten Boom (read this most amazing short story about Corrie forgiving) or children like the Henderson girls.
How does God bring healing? How does God right wrong? I don’t know. But He can, and in real life examples He Has (like Corrie).
At a personal level, I’m thankful the Lord is able to look beyond my sin and offer me forgiveness, reconciliation, and adoption. I’m thankful He doesn’t write off Biggest Losers because then he would write off me.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." – Jesus Christ
When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, it was the entrance of God’s Kingdom of Love and Peace to earth.
Like a mustard seed, His Kingdom was planted; and like a Trojan Horse, it slipped into a lowly manger stall. His entrance was a collision of two Kingdoms. And good eventually will triumph over evil.
Jesus the baby is now Jesus the King seated at the right hand of God, waiting for the fullness in time when He will come back to conquer, reign, and make his enemies his footstool.
I want to close out this post with an excerpt from the book of Revelation. It’s Christmas time, where we look back 2,000 years to the Advent. But let’s not forget the future, the hope to which this Biggest Loser is looking forward:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God… On each side of the river stood the tree of life… And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads… And they will reign for ever and ever.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city… "
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!"
And let him who hears say, "Come!"
Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.