Monday, May 14, 2012

Are We All Breaking Bad?

The critically acclaimed television show Breaking Bad begins with a normal high school science teacher and family man named Walter White living an average suburban life. The show then follows Walter as he begins to make destructive decisions ("breaking bad" is a saying that refers to someone who is making poor choices). This average person slowly but surely makes compromises and justifies his actions. Sometimes his decisions are so extreme that they are only believable because of the deep inner turmoil that is evident in the character. On the one hand, he knows that what he is doing is wrong. On the other hand, he finds ways to sear his conscience so that he can avoid condemning himself.
The reason the show is so powerful and relevant is that those of us who are average suburban Americans have a hard time separating ourselves from Walter White. He's a normal person who loves his family and tries to make a living. We want to look at his actions and condemn him as evil, but we see too much of ourselves in him.
Breaking Bad brings out a profound truth about the darkness of humanity. We like to believe that there are good guys (us and our friends) and bad guys (drug traffickers, pimps, and lawyers). We like to believe that we may be capable of small sins (lower case "s"), but that only evil people are capable of really bad Sins (murder, rape, exploitation, oppression). As much as this belief seems appealing, it is in no way biblical. The biblical truth is much more dark and grim (and much closer to Breaking Bad than to the normal Christian perception).
Most Bible believing Christians have a hard time with the fact that the Bible teaches that all people are broken. The Bible teaches that this brokenness not only refers to the fact that we are victims, but to the reality that we are also victimizers. We are both the oppressed and the oppressors.
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus casually referred to average fathers as "evil." Romans 3:9-20 is a grim passage about the utter wickedness of humanity. Jesus himself said that no one except God should even be called "good" (Matthew 19:17).
Despite this, we routinely refer to ourselves and others as "good persons." And when we're accused of doing something wrong, we respond with phrases like, "What kind of a person do you think I am?" and "How could you think that about me?" and "I would never do that!"
These phrases reveal that in our heart of hearts we don't embrace the biblical teaching about our own darkness. We still think we aren't capable of the really bad sins. This thinking will lead us down the roads of denial and self-justification. After all, these roads are necessary to reach the destination of pronouncing ourselves "good persons." This thinking also leads us to revel in our own "goodness" and despise others for being so "bad."
On the other hand, when we embrace what the Bible says about our own brokenness (a painful reality), some wonderful things begin to happen. For starters, we begin to revel not in our own goodness, but in the grace of God that Jesus bought with his precious blood. We also begin to rely more completely on God's daily grace and help as we look to say "No" to the slavery of sin and "Yes" to the freedom that God brings. And on top of this we begin to see the broken people around us as people who are in need of the same grace that we need.
We make a significant mistake when we underestimate our own potential for evil. When we do this, we put ourselves in danger of denial and self-justification. And we also miss out on the joy that comes with coming face to face with our own wickedness and seeing God love us through it.

1 comment:

  1. Love this. (In a sobering, not really enjoyable sense.) Especially applicable to us "lifers" (Christians since age 4). I find it really easy to look at the relatively good life I've lived my whole life and feel pretty good about myself, maybe even better than those Christians who found grace later in life, after they had time to make much worse decisions than I.
    The Bible actually makes the sins I commit make look a whole lot worse(accurately evil).