So I am watching the Today Show this morning, waiting to hear the next weather update when they did a story of this mother from Ohio who disappeared a little over two weeks ago, only to have it discovered that she had actually run away with a boyfriend to Florida. The lady is the married mother of a baby, but she decided to ditch everything and take off. But to do so she came up with an elaborate plan that included lying about a trip to the supermarket, leaving her car in the lot with keys in ignition and slashed tires, and then a trip to Florida with her new dude. A massive hunt costing tax payers thousands of dollars followed as her husband and family feared the worst. But a few days later surveillance cameras in a local convenience store showed this woman visiting the store with a different man several times. A few days of the hunt found the lady and her boyfriend in Florida as she hoped to leave her responsibility and cares in the past.
What I found crazy was the thinking of this woman when she was interviewed by a tabloid TV outlet. They asked her why she didn’t just divorce her husband. Her answer (I am not making this up) was that her religious spiritual beliefs would not allow her to divorce. This chick committed adultery, left her husband and toddler abandoned, created an elaborate plan to run away lying to everyone she knew and even to the law enforcement, she slashed the tires on her own car in order to make her plan look like an abduction, and then she ran off to sunny dreams in Florida leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces as she tried to start a new life, but divorce was against her religion.
As I sat there thinking I realized that this is exactly the kind of thinking that graceless religion produces, especially forms of Christianity that completely fail to understand and apply the Gospel. On the one hand we will come up with crazy rules and systems that don’t make a lot of sense. Yes, God does hate divorce (Malachi 3:15-16), but for this woman to hold that one law while violating every sense of the spirit of marriage is crazy. On the other hand, alongside the weird rules and systems, religion will also produce crazy efforts to justify self in spite of the utter depravity that is demonstrated in our actions. As you watch the interview, you can see that in some demented way this lady believes she did the right thing because she loves her new man.
We need the Gospel. It always reminds us of two realities that are true at every moment of life. First, I am worse than I could have ever imagined. I need to be reminded that I am always bent to rebel against God and disregard His law. Without God’s work in my life through the person of Jesus I would ignore his Commands and pursue my own agenda every time. But the Gospel also reminds us that we are more accepted than I ever could have imagined because of the cross of Jesus. I cannot justify myself, but Jesus died so that I might be counted as righteous by God. This righteousness is not my own, it is a foreign righteousness given by God as a gift (see Romans 3:21-28). As long as we lean on our religious system we will find places where our thinking is actually just like this woman’s. We have to run to the Gospel and the cross as a reminder of these two realities, and then ask God for forgiveness of my rebellion and for empowerment to be transformed.