We all have skeletons in the closet — secrets that’d make us absolutely die if they were exposed. There are sins in the darkest corners of us that we work and strive and bleed and sweat to keep there. Our lives devolve into nothing more than keeping some things hidden and saving face. None of us like to look marred or imperfect, especially in front of our peers, so we exhaust our lives trying be perfect and look perfect. It comes as no surprise, though, that when imperfections arise we squash them and chastise their owner. Scandals are turned into stories and people into pariahs. We’re a one-strike society — there’s no such thing as strike two and three. Mess up once and you’re cut off.
Scandals and skeletons.
I can’t think of a more prime example of this very scenario than what has occurred recently with the Duggar family. You’re probably most familiar with them through TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting series which has chronicled the lives of the pristine midwestern Christian family. The Duggar clan has graced family room television sets since 2008 and, since its inception, has proved to be a catalyst for societal, spiritual, and familial debate. Everyone has to have a take on everything and the Duggar’s decisions on how they raise and discipline their offspring is no exception.
If you’re unfamiliar or unplugged from this recent skeleton that’s been found in the closet, you might oblige yourself in reading Maria Puente’s column in USA Today. Essentially, one of the Duggar family members has admitted to being guilty of molesting his own sisters, a secret that’s been kept under wraps for over a decade. Now, what many are saying is how scandalous this tragedy is and how Christianity has lost another “knight,” another beacon, another example in modern society. (Now everyone’s just waiting to find some dirt on Tim Tebow.) And no doubt this situation is, indeed, tragic and dark and reprehensible. But I think the aftermath will be the opposite of those.
I believe that through all the heartache and filth of this situation, what shines is not a godless society finding another chink in the sufficiency of Scripture and Christianity but the extremities to which God’s grace reaches. You have no idea how far the grace of God can go. Imagine the deepest of depths, the blackest of nights, the most delinquent depravities, and God’s unmerited favor can find the fugitive even there.
Sin might widen its circle age after age, but grace widened its circle and still went far beyond man’s transgression. Age after age sin ascended a higher pinnacle of rebellious ungodliness; but grace ascended along with it, and took its station far above it, like a bright canopy of heavenly azure. Age after age descended to lower and lower depths of hateful pollution; grace went down along with it, and when the soul found itself at the very bottom of the horrible pit, and expected to meet nothing there but hell itself, it found the hand of grace still beneath it, as mighty to save, as willing to bless as ever. Just as sin abounded, so grace did much more abound.1
Jesus’s grace to you has no limits nor shows partiality on those whom we’d judge as better or worse. It just gives and gives endlessly, regardless of past or present.
A bunch of mess-ups.
The thing is, we’re all messed up. We’re all dirty, depraved, desperate people striving for some semblance of peace in this life. And the glorious truth of God’s Word is that we all have the same Savior — one who seeks out the wretched and desolate. He’s the Savior of sinners, the Rescuer of the reprehensible, the Deliverer of the desperate and depraved. What this shows is that yes, we “all have sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God” — “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!” (Rom 3:23; 5:20) Don’t let this shake your confidence in God or the truth of his gospel. The reality is that if your theology and view of Christianity doesn’t allow for the fact that your great failures are ahead of you, you have the wrong theology.
More failures will come, that much is certain. Men will fail you, but we serve a God who never fails us. God’s gracious disposition towards us never wavers. He’s never hesitant in tendering unilateral love to those who’ve been blood-bought by his Son’s atoning work. He’s the last Savior we’d expect but the precise one we need. Jesus is the perfect Messiah for messed up people. He comes for battered, bruised, reckless rebels, yes, even child molesters, adulterers, and murderers. He delivers us under the banner of full and free forgiveness — a cross-sealed pardon that declares, “I love you, no matter what.” He comes bearing true unsullied grace, grace that should make you baulk at it’s freeness and shudder at its immensity. So, “whatever [your sin] be, know this, that there is grace enough in this God of all grace even for such a case as yours.”2
Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954), 280.