by Eddie Moody, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
Grace in the Cancel Culture
“If you knew what I was really like, you would not have anything to do with me.” So began a young man who had just been apprehended after trying to escape from a juvenile correctional facility. I knew him because he had been on suicide watch a few times, and I was about to find out why. He went on to describe a terrible act he had committed. He said no one knew, but the guilt was killing him—literally. As he described the act, I felt dirty, but sensed his relief at being able to tell someone.
Today, many people can relate to his predicament. In fact, you can probably think of several cases where people once viewed favorably have fallen into disfavor or have become ostracized after a misstep. Some, like the young man I spoke with that day, have committed terrible acts. Others have simply landed on the wrong side of a culture turned upside down. Somehow, someway they have found themselves canceled by the culture.
In a way, we have always had a cancel culture. Zacharias, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman at the well, the lepers, the man with the withered hand, the prostitutes, and so many more biblical characters were canceled by the culture of their day. Some because of sin, others because of the circumstances they found themselves facing. In a way, Jesus was canceled because He insisted on ministering to them (Matthew 9:10-17; Mark 2:15-22; Luke 5:29-39). What does Jesus think about the way our culture “cancels” people today?
Sometimes, even Christians are quick to “pile on” when someone falls. You find many examples of this on social media. Unfortunately, that is not what most canceled people need. By the time they are canceled, they are quite aware of their sins (though popular culture will not refer to their misdeeds as sins). Many feel trapped with no way out. Redemption feels far away. Some do not believe they could be forgiven by anyone, let alone God. They often do not know what they need, but they need grace.
As Christians, we must look at people differently. A cursory examination of the genealogy of Jesus points to God’s redemption of canceled people (e.g., Judah, Rahab, David, Bathsheba). When I read Judah’s words about Joseph (Genesis 37:27-28), I want to cancel him. When I read about his actions in Genesis 38, I feel dirty. But God worked with him and turned him into a different man (Genesis 44:18-34). Sometimes we are called to be like Nathan (2 Samuel 12), confronting sin and pointing people to the way out. As a result, men and women will offer God prayers like the ones in Psalms 32 and 51. Rather than “pile on,” God has called us to minister to canceled people.
How can we minister to canceled people? Years ago, a popular, successful individual was sought out by many until he fell into disfavor. However, he committed a terrible act, something no one would accept. A few years later, the individual attended a sporting event to watch his child participate. Only a few years earlier, he would have been mobbed by requests for selfies and autographs. But after being canceled, he sat alone, surrounded by sneers. Somehow, I think Jesus would have gone over to sit beside that individual during the game, just like He made a point to visit the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5, 10). He extended grace.
As I sat with the young man that day, it was my job to offer grace. He knew he could unburden himself, and I would not tell anyone unless he planned to harm himself or someone else again. On the 90-minute drive home from the correctional facility, I could not get his words out of my head: “If you knew what I was really like, you would not have anything to do with me.”
That is true of me and probably you, too. We would probably all get canceled if everyone knew what we were really like. Yet the One who knows us best gave up everything to give us grace (2 Corinthians 8:9). Let’s be quick to give others God’s grace.
About the columnist: Better Together is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Eddie Moody, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life and ministry. Have a suggested topic or question? Contact Eddie: firstname.lastname@example.org.