Thanks to big tech and covid, most of our human interactions are through social media platforms. Unfortunately, the screen and type provide a barrier allowing us to put up a pretty front and hide who we are and what’s going on. Social media is excellent for sharing highlights of what’s great and sometimes tragic (we need support) online. However, the entirety of a person and their life can’t fit on a screen. We post carefully curated content, masking real imperfections behind picture-perfect images, and we wonder why no one loves us for ourselves. We see these posts by others and assume others’ lives are better than ours. The constant push for exciting content has created great pretenders with no real understanding or the ability to love an actual person. It propagates a fantasy world, cutting us off and making us intolerant to authentic relationships with imperfections.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.Genesis 3:7
The First Coverup
God made us unique and different from one another to connect like a puzzle, a balance of strengths and weaknesses. The first sin in the garden isolated us from God and resulted in the first coverup, clothes to cover and hide parts of us from one another. We need it for our protection. The venom of sin entered the blood of the human race, with it the real potential to damage one another. Through social media, we can control how others see us. Those who embrace this cover criticize those who don’t and further isolating us from one another. The power of our unity is a threat to the destructive, divisive work of the devil. He’s working overtime to create division and separation.
for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:9
The Christian Question
That brings me to the Christian question. People looking from the outside see Christianity in one dimension. Some Christians live one-dimensional lives attending church (or not) and not allowing the power of God to change our lives. Most of us have those areas that haven’t undergone the redeeming change. The world points to these flaws with an accusing hand, and it’s hard not to return the favor. This creates even more division. Through this social media world, we are conditioned to a different set of values. Attention-getting is better than sincerity, and the sensational becomes the norm. We are no longer fine-tuned to the entire person; we don’t celebrate the real victories, nor do we value the whole of a natural person. The dehumanization is a precursor to a callous justification of violence and hate and a denial of our needs as flawed humans.
….Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9
The Flawed Christian
I love the old hymns. Many of them were written by accomplished and well-educated poets who have had profound experiences with God. This week I heard an old hymn, “There is a Fountain.” Its lyrics are powerful. “There is a foundation filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins” It stunningly summarizes the beauty of the gospel; God’s love and solution for sinful and imperfect humankind. (See the lyrics below.) The author, William Cowper, a celebrated poet of his day, was a sensitive soul whose life was marked with tragedy and plagued with depression and mental illness. His mom died when he was only six, and he was sent to live in a series of boarding schools where he was ruthlessly bullied. He fell hopelessly in love with unavailable women, was institutionalized once, and even attempted to take his life three times. His writing was his constant friend. Cowper used it to cry out to God with words that ring through churches and on iTunes nearly 250 years later.
…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32
The True Message
William Cowper’s hymns weren’t inspiration because he used them as a mask to show what a great Christian he was. These works were born from honesty and humility, labor of agony, the torture, the sorrow that he opened to God and experienced God’s love and inspiration. Cowper explored his weakness, for, in them, he found the power of love’s gospel. Only in our sincerity can we experience God sincerely, and other’s too. God sees through our masks and doesn’t entertain our deception. Sadly Mr. Cowper was never able to shake many of his issues. He became isolated, only emerging through his writing, living as a quintessential tortured poet until his lonely end. History doesn’t look on him as a saint, but the songs he wrote, reach out to those who feel disenfranchised, the hurting, and the anguished with the beauty of the gospel. God uses our damage to create works of redemption.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:31-32
The Other Half
If Cowper had such profound experiences with God, wrote words that generations use for praise, how could he die in such a pitiful state? Only he and God know the fullness of that answer. We quote and hear, “the truth will set you free,” but we neglect the other half in John 8:31; maybe Cowper did too. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth can set us free, but freedom isn’t always an instant experience. It’s often a process in abiding (living) in his word consistently, becoming a disciple, and finally, knowing the truth before it can set us free. Sometimes we have an experience, but abiding, in the truth, even the beautiful truth of God’s height and depth of love can be unnerving. We squirm under its brightness, wanting to scurry to the dark corners of our pain where we’re comfortable. The lesson is that God can save us and use us not just despite our weaknesses but through our weaknesses. The depths at which we connect with the truth is the depth of our freedom. We aren’t perfect, but we can be forgiven.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior]…Romans 1:16
Heaven on Earth
My father did a lot of good, and he was also flawed like everyone else. He went to church a few times in his life. He lived a life of friendship, serving, and giving his gifts of help to all he knew. That isn’t what got him to heaven in the end. Being fiercely independent (who could do anything he put his mind to), he had to face that he couldn’t use his gifts and determination to get to God. He accepted that hand from heaven, and I will see him, and I’m sure Cowper there one day. God loved the heck out of my father, but it’s only now in heaven that he knows that fully. Let’s not allow his love to go to waste. Below are the lyrics to one of Cowper’s famous songs. Enjoy its beauty sit with it allowing its truth to bathe your heart in the grace of God. It’s a little touch of heaven on earth.