The Cruelest Lie

I was recently going through some recommended songs on Spotify and came across a stunningly beautiful song called The Village by Wrabel. I highly recommend that you pause here and listen to it. It’s beautiful, haunting, and deeply disturbing and troubling.

            I listened to this song for the first time just stunned by how beautiful the music is, and immediately added it to my playlists. I had kind of zoned out and wasn’t thinking about the lyrics very closely when suddenly I was struck by the words, “One page of the Bible isn’t worth a life.” These jarring lyrics snapped me back into reality and I began to pay attention to the song. With some context from the music video, I discovered that it’s about a transgender female whose family doesn’t understand her desire to be a male. The family is extremely conservative (as evidenced by a newscast of Trump playing during dinner in the music video) and given the lyrics regarding Sunday and hell to pay, apparently come from some kind of Christian background. Virtually everything about the video is troubling, but then the chorus struck me:

There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with the village.

            And this, this is the cruelest of all the lies. It’s a lie perpetuated by the world, the devil, the self, even the church at times. To be told that there is nothing wrong with you is cruel enough, to be told that the problem lies with everyone else and you simply play the victim is even worse. This lie strips man of every ounce of his humanity, flies in the face of every other empowerment mantra we preach, creates victims where there are perpetrators, and darkens the soul to any hope or desire for forgiveness or redemption. To be told that there is nothing wrong with you is to cut off the Law (what convicts us of our sin) and undermine the Gospel (the powerful, awe-inspiring news of salvation.)

            And yet this is the gospel the world prefers. There is nothing wrong with you. The problem is with anyone who points out your flaws, your sins, your bad habits, your poor choices. And how dare they judge you? You’re fine just the way you are. That is the gospel of the world. You do you.

            It’s important to clarify here that I have no interest in addressing transgender issues at all. That’s beyond my paygrade. I don’t have enough psychological knowledge to discuss the topic intelligently; my opinions would ring hollow. That’s not the point anyway. The only way our culture has gotten as far as it has with the sexual revolution is through the lie this song sings so beautifully: there’s nothing wrong with you. We need to address this lie and speak the truth with love before we can address any of the societal problems it creates.

            The false gospel of “there’s nothing wrong with you,” creates two problems, one civil and one spiritual, and both affect our walk with grace.  

            The first problem with this philosophy is that it removes any and all incentive to self-improve as well as the incentive to abide by the social contract. The social contract was built on the foundational belief that men in their natural state are flawed. Philosopher and social theorist Thomas Hobbes claimed that, left to his own devices, a man’s life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” From this foundation it became clear that the only way to avoid pure anarchy and mayhem was to establish a civil society where laws and codes protected the needs of the many from the desires of the few. Believe it or not, the idea that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” did not originate with Spock. The idea is centuries old and essentially the only way man can maintain any semblance of civil society. (Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk on the history and philosophy of the social contract. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

            Here’s the rub: If there is nothing wrong with you, and the problem lies with everyone around you, there’s no need to be your best possible self for the sake of a functional society. Civil contracts fly out the window for the sake of your own personal desires and beliefs and who is to say that what you want, or who you are, is wrong? There’s no need to curb any of our sinful or horrible desires and make ourselves better people. Don’t waste any more money on self-help books or diets because there’s nothing wrong with you.

The worst problem with this false gospel is the spiritual problem: it denies the legitimacy of the Law and destroys the beauty of the Gospel. Here’s how the true Law and Gospel should work:

            Law: You are broken, you are sinful, you have rebelled against God and are destined to an eternity without his love. You deserve nothing but death for the sins you’ve committed against a holy God.

            Gospel: Jesus loved you, even when you were sinful, enough to die in your place. And that’s what he did, he died for you. Now if you just believe in him you will be destined for an eternity filled with his love, beyond your wildest dreams.

It’s stunning really. I am a mess, I make bad decisions, I hurt those around me, I struggle with guilt. In all honesty I’m a horrible human being. The idea that someone loves me even in all of my awfulness enough to die for me and make me better is overwhelming. It’s unfathomable. It’s earth-shattering and life changing. But the false gospel of “there’s nothing wrong with you,” completely destroys that beauty. To claim that there’s nothing wrong with you is to completely strike out the first paragraph about the Law and simply offer you a half-baked, watered down idea of salvation with no real consequence to believing or disbelieving it. The greatest love in all of human history becomes a flat romance with less appeal than a cheap vampire novel. “Jesus loves you,” and “Jesus died for you,” become little more than platitudes. We’re left with a shell of a faith, if we have any faith at all.

             But it’s just as cruel to leave someone with only the Law. To strike out the Gospel is to leave them without hope. It’s just as easy to forget that the Gospel is for everyone, (yes even the worst of sinners) as it is to forget that the Law is for everyone. For sinners and saved alike, both Law and Gospel are indispensable. Anything less is only a shadow of the greatest news for all mankind. It should give us pause that most of the world accuses Christians of only sharing this Law and condemning sinners. Have we really left out the most important part? Are we quicker to condemn than we are to share hope? Do we make the law louder than the Gospel?

The tragic end result of this false gospel, whether civil or spiritual, is that it necessarily leads to the ultimate cruelty: finding a beggar in a gutter and simply leaving him there. Telling a homeless person that the bridge they live under is in fact a palace and that everything is fine just the way it is, is utterly despicable. Something is clearly wrong, and they will be the first to tell you that. But the false gospel of “there’s nothing wrong with you” ultimately leads us down this path. Instead of buying a house, we’ve settled for putting up curtains in the gutter. This would never be acceptable in the medical world. For the doctor to diagnose you with cancer and then simply tell you it’s ok would be an egregious case of negligence and malpractice. But for some reason, in the interest of the false gospel our society embraces, we’ve decided to call negligence tolerance, and prescriptions are now considered judgmental.

            There is no way that we can walk with grace and perpetuate this false gospel. It is not loving to share only the Law. It is not loving to share only the gospel. It is not loving to tell someone that it’s ok when it is definitely not ok. It is not loving to tell someone there’s nothing wrong with them. If we do that, then the problem really is with the village, because we have perpetuated a false and damning gospel. Let this song be a lesson to us, that we are each responsible for the message we share, and that each human is a valuable and beautiful life that Christ died to save. Let us each remember that to walk with grace is to challenge the world and it’s false gospel. May we all remember that to walk with grace is to share Law and Gospel, and that to withhold either one from a searching sinner is the gravest of sins. May we all dare to reach beyond the gutter, and to share the little piece of heaven we now hold as redeemed children of God.

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