Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I think I’ve had it backwards all along. I think we all have. For too many years people have used this verse to limit themselves and others around them. It’s sad, really. I even had this verse thrown at me when an authority figure confronted me about the fact that The Matrix had found its way onto my list of favorite movies.
This is a pivotal passage, to be sure. Your interpretation of it will dictate how you live your life and how effective you are in cultivating meaningful relationships with those who haven’t heard the gospel. But beyond that, it’s a command. A statement with the understood subject you. So naturally, it’s something we need to obey.
I guess how we obey this command isn’t as important as simply obeying the command, but I want to present some ideas here about one kind of “how.”
Last night during a vision and strategy meeting for Liquid Kids, I stole a few minutes with Bill, one of our new pastors and ultimate cool guy. Our conversation quickly moved to topics like the TV show “Saving Grace” and XXX Church. What got me about him wasn’t that he was okay with the content in “Saving Grace,” because even he admits it’s not the greatest. What hit me was that he found something redeeming in it. He found the story of redemptive love and radical grace in the middle of so-called “trash on TV.”
And the guys at XXX Church are doing something amazing. They’ve found something worth loving in what every Christian agrees would be the worst possible environment for a follower of Christ to be found. But that is what it means to show a radical kind of love. Imagine, if you will, what Christianity would look like if Jesus didn’t spend so much time among whores and thieves, insurrectionists and freedom fighters. How life-changing would grace be if He were unwilling to do that?
Here’s an excerpt from an email that Craig from XXX Church received after a gay erotica show his team spoke at:
No, thank you guys for coming! Your crew was incredibly friendly and welcoming and willing to speak with anyone and everyone. We even gave them stage time in a prime slot to promote your message. . . Your message that he loves everyone and the fact that your determination to spread that word even in what I’m sure was the craziest and weirdest event and location your crew has witnessed shows me that you guys are doing a great and selfless thing. . . Please keep doing what you are doing.
P.S. The gays thought your crew was adorable, we loved them! It was a total shock to have a bible handed to you in the midst of such debauchery.
XXX Church found something worth loving at that event—human souls. Just like Christ found something worth loving on earth. Satan meant for an event like this to destroy men’s souls. But God has different plans. I can almost hear Joseph’s voice here: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Whenever I hear a story of redemption, something inside me rejoices. But when that story comes out of the darkest place possible, it’s that much more beautiful.
Let me ask you something. How far are you willing to go to find the noble, true, right, pure, lovely, or admirable? If you come across it, are you willing to embrace it? Or will you shun it because it doesn’t fit into your box?
How do you choose to obey that verse? Do you think only on what you already know to be noble or lovely? Or do you see the pure and admirable in places that others are unwilling to go?
In The Matrix there’s a story of a man who has come to rescue people from slavery. They were in bondage and weren’t even aware that they were bound. But they had created their slavery by discovering AI. The rescuer possesses a unique ability and is the only one who can save them. And he will do everything in his power to secure their salvation. Even go to his death.
Sound familiar? Is it a beautiful story? Is there something noble and true in it? Then why not embrace it?