Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Justice, reality-TV style

Last night, my husband was on a deadline and worked late. In an attempt to keep myself awake until he came home, I watched some trashy TV. By trashy, I mean the after prime-time reality shows, which can be kind of depressing, disgusting and sadly addicting, so I never watch them. But last night, live TV was my only choice; this weekend we switched cable providers, meaning I was stuck with an empty DVR, not counting the six episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that were already recorded. And I'd already seen all those. (Yes, I could have read, but sometimes I'm so tired I can't process any more words, no matter how much I'd like to.)

I got sucked into a program called True Beauty, which seemed to have somewhat of a moral intent. The contestants, supposedly some of the most beautiful people in America, believe they are competing for a high-profile spokesperson role, in this case being cast as "The Face of Vegas." While I think the Face of Vegas probably looks much like Satan himself, these individuals were pursuing this prize vehemently. Most oozed with egotism and self-flattery, hoping to be chosen as the most attractive and charming. What these outwardly beautiful people were not told is that each challenge held a behind-the-scenes challenge in morality, in order to reveal something of each person's inner beauty. Kind of awesome.

As the episode came to a close, the person who failed the challenges and was about to be eliminated was escorted into a room alone with the three judges, still ignorant as to why she was being cut. By the way, this woman named Liz was beside herself in grief. She had been recognized as the stand-out most beautiful person of the group. She thought she was quite a big deal and was deeply shaken to be knocked off her throne. What was awaiting was even more horrifying.

The host of the show came out and explained to Liz what the show was really seeking to identify: a person with an outer beauty matched by an inner one. In protest, Liz stated that she was the cream of the crop, physically and morally. The host then simply motioned her hand to the massive screen behind her and said, "Let's take a look." Clip after clip was then shown of Liz compromising, cussing, and flat-out cheating her way to what she thought was the top. Watching, she trembled. Eventually unable to bear her shame any longer, Liz walked out of the room.

I'm gonna be honest. By this time, I wanted her to get kicked off. You know that sense of justice you can feel by a proper reality-show elimination? I felt it. Liz was arrogant, incredibly unkind, and took every opportunity to manipulate her way towards winning. She failed all the moral challenge set-ups, easily deciding to shoplift, lie, treat others with contempt, and cheat. I would never in a million years stoop to the levels she stooped for a goal.

And yet...(exhale)...a chill went through me as I watched her watch her sins being paraded before her eyes. All the things she thought were done in secret. Every bad choice, every rude word, every missed opportunity to care for someone else was recorded and then played back to her. And on live TV. Oh my. It suddenly wasn't funny. My perspective changed then. Instead of feeling justice, I felt sick, mainly because I know this verse (Jesus speaking):

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
Matthew 12:36

I almost want to cry, because I can imagine myself on that day just like that sad woman, stammering to make a case for myself and the good things I've done, all the ways I've tried to earn a good position with God. And then Jesus motions to a giant screen and says, "Let's take a look." But my scenario is much worse, since God has not only witnessed my bad choices and unkind words; He's also known my every thought. If the image of standing before Him on that day doesn't send a chill down your spine, then I don't know what would.

I will be Liz someday - you will be Liz someday - giving an account for our mistakes. I don't think I'll have an "account," actually. The only reason Liz protested at first was because she believed her sins were committed in secret. Before an all-knowing God, what could I possibly say in my defense?

Only one thing. I get to say it. "But Lord, I belong to You."

I know this too:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1-2

This belonging is nothing I deserve or have earned, mind you. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

As the Bible says, my tapes get erased. The key difference between Liz and I is that my sin gets forgiven. Jesus took the burden of my guilt onto Himself on the cross. So I am not sent away like Liz, confused and crying and humiliated. In fact, I am invited in. Forever.

I think Jesus' favorite thing to do is take away our shame. The hard part is letting Him.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5


  1. This is an excellent post, Leslie! Thank you.

  2. Just telling my story as it unfolds! Thanks Suzanne, I appreciate your encouragement. ;)

  3. This was great Leslie! So true! -Jenn