Sayeth Taylor the prophetess. Wouldn’t be the first time she’s said something that at least has the ring of wisdom to it.
Ok, so I’m mostly doing that terrible Jesus juke thing where a perennially uncool youth pastor type points at a thing in popular culture and then does a fairly clunky move towards something in the Bible. Sorry.
And to compound it, while Anti-Hero is in the charts while I’m writing this, it’s very unlikely to be so by the time you read it. Which means my stone-cold takes have cursed me into irrelevance again.
Putting my attempts at humour aside, there is something to be sought in reading culture theologically. I was driving to and from Nottingham a little while back and heard the song multiple times in the journey. Some of it’s funny, some of it’s clever, Swift is a good wordsmith. But the line that stands out, as it’s clearly musically meant to, is the one in my title.
It struck me.
Why? Because what is the way of Jesus? If we boil it right down to its simplest level: forgiveness and repentance. We forgive those who hurt us and we repent of our own sin.
Which means in a situation where we are angry with someone else, or they’ve hurt us, or they’re acting in ways that are unhelpful or unkind or unwise or just plain annoying—especially within the Church—we should ask ourselves the question:
Is it me?
Or, better, where is this me? Because I suspect we are much more sin-addled than most of us are aware, and nine times out of ten there will be something for you to repent of in the interaction. Friends, you’ve got to repent.
It’s worth adding a few nuances (six to be exact):
That does not mean that you are the problem. It simply means that you have something to repent of. I reckon I have something to repent of in most of my interactions with other people, I’m just too blind to my own selfishness and self-obsession to see it.
That does not mean that they didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you may be in the right in your interactions. You should still ask the Holy Spirit whether you have anything to repent of. You should apologise for those things even if the other person is primarily in the wrong, assuming what you did was also wrong.
That doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. Sometimes you will honestly, with a clean conscience, decide that you have nothing to repent of. That’s wonderful, the Lord delights in your good works. But we should never assume that’s the case until we’ve examined our souls, and we should be very wary of people who never seem to think they’re in the wrong.
That doesn’t mean that we need to be caught in introspection. I know it sounds an awful lot like that’s what I’m proposing, but I don’t think I live my life that way. All I’m saying is that we start to learn humility—a journey I am at the beginning of—by dealing with our own sin before we call out others.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t call out their sin. Not at all! But deal with your log before you point to their mote (Matthew 7). This does not we cannot point to the sins of others; in fact we must do so (Matthew 18). But it does mean that we should do our best to ensure we’ve repented where we need to first, as a matter of urgency.
That doesn’t mean that we need to mope about. This is not a call to get all ‘woe is me’ about our sin. We should take it seriously. The thing is, and this is a really bonkers thing that happens to be true: the cross of Christ has dealt with your sin. You will not face its punishment. We repent for the sake of our souls so that we can grow up into maturity, into the likeness of Christ. We wage war on our sin (1 Peter 2). But, once we’ve repented, we can joyfully move on secure in the knowledge of the irrepressible gift of God in Christ. Even if we specifically, verbally, repented of every sinful thought, deed, and emotion we have ever committed we would still not be worthy of the presence of almighty God. We would still be recipients of gratuitous grace. All is gift in God.
So, dear friends, repent of your sins. Trust in Christ. And then know that you are loved by God, not because of your repentance but because of his great mercy (1 Peter 1).
Photo by Jovan Vasiljević on Unsplash
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