I can’t remember exactly when but at some point during high school, I started watching The Today Show. That was back before Katie Couric said goodbye to Bryant Gumble and started breaking in this young upstart named Matt Lauer. And, when I say I watched The Today Show, I mean, I watched it every single day. “But, first this is Today on NBC” anchored my morning routine as much as anything else for years. Maybe that’s why I was so shocked to hear that Matt Lauer has joined the long list of cultural figures to fall in the two months since The New York Times’ first reports on Harvey Weinstein.
To be honest, I’m usually skeptical of Christian authors, bloggers and pastors who use the controversy or news of the day as fodder for a quick blog post. I’m always concerned those who write such posts are silently grateful for a topic that could generate a lot of interest. The last thing I want to do is be that guy but I do want to respond to a massive question Savannah Guthrie asked as she shared the new about her friend Matt Lauer, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” It’s such a significant question because most of our culture’s attempts to reconcile those two thoughts leave our souls deeply unsatisfied.
All too often, we resolve the tension by cutting the person who has behaved badly out of our lives. Maybe it’s because we don’t know what to say and saying nothing seems easier and safer. Maybe it’s because we feel so hurt and betrayed that a friend let us down. Whatever our motivation, cutting someone out always reveals that we never really loved them, only what they could do for us. Love doesn’t see friends as assets or liabilities but so much of what we call friendship does.
At other times, we careen off in the other direction and ignore, excuse, minimize or laugh off their behavior. We don’t love our friends enough to tell them they were wrong, instead we help them rationalize their failings. We pretend what they did doesn’t matter, we defend what is indefensible, and in so doing we tarnish our integrity and betray our own expectations for ourselves.
We’ve lost the ability to say, “I love you even though you’ve behaved very badly.” It’s an ability we desperately need if we’re every going to have healthy, enduring relationships. And it’s an ability we’ll only develop when we realize that’s exactly what God has already said to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s an ability that calls on us to embrace three complementary truths:
Nobody wins when we lower our moral standards to the basest levels of human depravity. Sexual harassment is wrong; it violates the dignity of a person who is made in the image and likeness of God. And to sexual harassment we can add a long list of other things that our culture has become far too permissive of in an attempt to answer Savannah’s question. But mornings like today reveal that we all really do know better; some things are just wrong. Sex is a sacred gift from God, not a weapon to be used in exerting power over someone else.
In our assessment of others, we would do well to consider the words of 19th century Scottish pastor Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.” As much as I want to fight that conclusion for myself, I know it’s true. Apart from God’s grace, I’m capable of doing whatever Lauer did and even worse. It’s dangerously prideful to live without that kind of self awareness and it reflects a willful ignorance of our own failures. What if your biggest regret, greatest sin and deepest source of shame was being thrown all over the internet today? How would you be feeling if that moment was the topic of conversation all over the country today? That thought alone should be enough to lead us into deep levels of humility.
It’s only humble souls that can deal in the economy of grace. Grace is the unique contribution of Christianity to the human experience – the ability to say that my love for you isn’t based on what you do but on who you are. It’s the ability to stand with both the sinner and the sinned against. It’s the ability to separate love from performance.
It’s what God has done for us in Jesus. On the cross, we see the fury of God’s hatred for sin but we also see God’s deep love for sinners. The fury of God’s wrath fell on His Son so that it could pass over us. God made a way for sinners to become sons and for rebels to find peace. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it. He loves us because it’s who He is.
And that’s how he calls us to love one another. Not sweeping sin or sinners under the carpet but showing a grace that melts the hardest of hearts and gives life in the most hopeless situations.
Oh, how I long to love people the way Jesus has loved me. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could all take a step closer to that this Christmas? A baby Boy was born to show us that grace and truth flow together and change everything they touch.