This morning, while taking my daughter Olivia to school, we were listening to the radio as we always do. Fortunately, unlike her big sister, my youngest daughter is a rocker like me and we always listen to the local rock and roll station, WBBB 96 Rock. Today, the morning show guys were talking about Brett Michaels, former Poison front man and reality show attention-whore. I know I shouldn’t speak ill of the injured, but I’m sure you know what I meant by that last comment. If you don’t, find some video of VH-1’s “Rock of Love” which is a reality show where Brett tries to find the love of his life. Yes,it’s just as dreadful as it sounds. If that’s not enough, he was also on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice”. I can’t think of any reason other than an unhealthy addiction to being the center of attention that could explain such behavior. But, that’s not what we’re talking about today. No, what today’s blog is about is a statement I made that embarrassed me as soon as I said it.
As I said, we were listening to the radio on the way to school and they played “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” in honor of Brett, who had a massive brain hemorrhage last Thursday. Now, neither of us care for 80’s hair band music and this song is the ultimate 80’s power ballad. Olivia and were trading quips about how bad the song is when I told her “You know, Brett wrote this song when he found out his stripper girlfriend was cheating on him”. She responded with a sardonic “That’s nice” and I said (get ready, here it comes) “You’d think that, dating a stripper, cheating would be expected”. As soon as I said it I knew it was wrong. Wrong because I judged an entire group of people based on a prejudice most of us hold. You might think that a person that takes their clothes off for a living wouldn’t stop there. That’s true for some, but not all. The worst part of it is, I’ve known a couple of women who did this and they would never think of being unfaithful. They were young women with debts and obligations who didn’t see a better way off meeting them. One was a mother trying to provide for her children and the other was a recent college graduate with a crushing debt from her education. Now I’m not saying that the way they were handling there lives was the best way. I’m just saying that there’s more to people than meets the eye.
This isn’t the first time I’ve put my foot in my mouth. It’s not even the first time I’ve done it in front of my daughter. I also know I’m not alone in this. How many of us have seen someone panhandling on the side of the road and automatically assumed the worst? I know I have. They’re a drug addict, an alcoholic or worse if that’s possible. Most of us are skeptical of media reports of homeless families trying to get by and don’t really believe that’s the case of the person we see on the street. After twenty years as a firefighter, I’m intimately familiar with the homeless population in Raleigh and, in general, that sentiment is true. There are some homeless families, but the majority are single men and many of them are fighting some demon or demons. Does that really make a difference? Or, are they the very people we should be reaching out to? When confronted by the Pharisees in Mark for associating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus said (paraphrased here) folks that aren’t sick don’t need a doctor and that “sinners” are who he came to save.
“Sinner”, there’s a loaded word for you. I looked up “sin” on Dictionary.com, Merriam Webster and Wikipedia. Between the two dictionaries, there were 31 different definitions and Wiki had pretty extensive page on the subject. Almost all of them focused on the legalistic side of the equation. Since Christianity is about relationships, I’m more interested in the relational side. The best definition that I’ve heard from that perspective is that sin is anything that separates us from God (thanks, Pastor Jenny). Anything that separates us from God. At first blush, that doesn’t sound like so much. But, think about it. “Anything” takes in a lot of territory. Territory that includes how we practice our faith or see ourselves as Christians. Look back at the story from Mark in the preceding paragraph. Who were the real sinners in there? The people sharing a meal with Jesus and listening to what he had to say? Or the Pharisees, who were so judgmental of them? How often are we like those people so hungry for the love of Jesus they’d do anything for it and how often are we like the Pharisees who were so concerned with doing the right thing? This morning I was a Pharisee and I don’t care for that side of myself. I’m giving up “doing the right thing” and I’m going to work on the love angle. I don’t really deserve it, but maybe He’ll give it to me anyway.