The Apostle Paul, Kanye West, and 'The Good Place'
"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them." — Acts 26:17
Sometimes I think there's a perception about the people in the Bible, the pillars of our faith, that they were something they weren't. And sometimes I think that perception is perpetrated by Christians, who focus more on deeds than on faith; more on works than on belief. I was reminded of that this morning during our message.
One of the things I love about the Bible is how relatable the people of faith are. They aren't perfect, they're flawed like all of us. But their faith and obedience was strong. Paul is an example of that. In his words in the first half of Acts 26, he is brutally honest about who he was before the Lord grabbed him. And it isn't a pretty picture. But he was not too far gone for the Lord to grab him and use him to fulfill His will in the world.
Sometimes people struggle because they don't feel like they can come back to God. That's one of the things I've always been fascinated by in song. I like the song "Jesus Walks" by Kanye West because it shows something of himself. But there's one line that's oft repeated in the chorus that always makes me sad. He says, "And I don't think there is nothing I can do now to right my wrongs; I want to talk to God but I'm afraid because we ain't spoke in so long." It speaks to me because I think that's how a lot of people feel.
But we've seen time and again that no one is too far gone if they turn to God. Paul frequently in Scripture calls himself chief among sinners. When Jesus intervened, Paul was in the midst of persecuting Christians, something he outlines in Acts 26. But sometimes people don't feel that.
Another interesting thing I thought about this morning is the emphasis on faith versus works, which is something that often gets lost, especially among non-believers. It made me think about "The Good Place," a new sitcom on NBC that debuted this fall.
The series depicts, essentially, heaven, dubbed "The Good Place." It's a place where only a select group of people end up residing. And they only get there because everything in life is about keeping score, and only the best of the best make it to The Good Place. Only those who've racked up a high enough score make it in. The conceit of the show is that a woman who doesn't belong accidentally gets admitted. Through five episodes, it certainly seems as if the show is poking fun at those who were committed to good works, that they aren't as perfect as they appear.
Of course, it's understandable that a show made by non-Christians would be so locked into the idea of Good Works as the path to heaven. That's a frequent refrain from other religions, too, which are also the butt of jokes in "The Good Place."
Most people aren't turning to the show for theology, which is good. But it is a reminder that there's plenty of flawed theology out there, and the best response is the truth of Scripture. Messages like the one Paul gives in Acts 26 are a reminder of that.