I’m blogging quotes from the book Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (2015), currently on offer at £1.99 from Amazon (Kindle version). You can purchase it or find more details here.
Brant Hansen tells the true story of a Church leader, in the days before the Internet took off, who availed himself of adult magazines when his wife wasn’t around. He knew what he was doing wasn’t right, of course, but he did it anyway. His wife left for a few days on a trip, and once she was gone from their apartment, he brought his magazines out of hiding. Later, he was so frustrated with himself and his continuing addiction that he decided, once and for all, to throw the magazines away. So he did. He took loads of them to the Wheelie Bin, which sat at the base of their apartment’s stairwell, and got rid of them. Sadly— and perhaps you can relate to this— he later wanted them back. His wife was to arrive soon, and the rubbish hadn’t been collected, so he returned quickly to the Wheelie Bin. Struggling, he leaned over the side to reach the magazines, lost his balance, and fell inside, breaking his arm. He couldn’t get out. It was just him. A Church leader, trapped with his magazines . . . bleating for help in a Wheelie Bin. And that’s where his wife found him.
Since hearing that story, I think about that guy sometimes. But honestly, I don’t think about what a loser he is, or what a hypocrite he is. Instead, I wonder if he’s still married. I wonder if his wife forgave him. I think about what it might have been like to be so obviously busted, so humiliatingly, crushingly, can’t-explain-this-one busted . . . and then forgiven. And— you knew I was going here— that’s all of us, if we’re honest. It may not be pornography we’re talking about, but in one way or another, we’re all the Wheelie Bin Vicar.
I’ve found myself wondering what it would be like to be part of a church of nothing but Wheelie Bin Vicars, people who know they’ve been caught, their lies exposed, and then set free. I think it would be a really, really fun, free, joyous church.
There’s a lot less stress when you’ve been found out. Pretending doesn’t come so easily. You can’t convince yourself that you’re not just as guilty as everyone else anymore. You know the truth, and the truth has a way of setting you free. And that includes a freedom from anger.
I think Wheelie Bin Church would be the opposite of an angry place. We don’t get angry when we’ve just been let off the hook.
When you’re living in the reality of the forgiveness you’ve been extended, you just don’t get angry with others easily. I suspect our sense of entitlement to anger is directly proportional to our perception of our own relative innocence. So when that illusion is blown up, irrevocably, publicly, in our faces, it’s very, very difficult to be angry with someone else. So yes, as believers in Jesus, remember we’ve all been exposed publicly for what we are. The depth of our brokenness, the extent of our betrayal, has not only been the subject of news; it’s changed history.
Two thousand years ago, our ugliness was made public on a hill, when a man stripped of His clothing was spat upon, made fun of, abandoned, and executed. It happened because of us, and it should have been us, but we were let off the hook. When I take that in, both the depth of my betrayal and knowing that my punishment is no longer hanging over my head, I’m downright joyful. I’m extremely grateful. And, as we already noted, in the human heart, gratitude and anger simply cannot coexist. It’s one or the other.
I love how fair Jesus is on this, how He levels the playing field, so no one can honestly pretend he or she is righteous anymore. People want to say, for instance, “Well, I’m not an adulterer. I’ve never had sex with someone outside of marriage.” But then Jesus comes along, in the Sermon on the Mount, and says if you’ve ever lusted after someone, you’re just as guilty.
It makes brilliant sense too: just because you haven’t had the opportunity to follow through on what you’d like to do, you’re not morally superior to someone who has had that opportunity. You say you haven’t murdered anyone? Jesus says you’re just as guilty if you’ve truly hated someone. You just didn’t have the guts to do what was in your heart.
Of course, as I keep making the point that we are not entitled to our anger, because we are just as guilty, that will sound extreme to some. Problem is, according to Jesus, it’s actually not extreme enough.
In Matthew 18 He tells the story of the unmerciful servant, a guy who owes the king millions of dollars. The king orders him to be sold, along with his wife and kids and everything he owns, to pay back the debt.
The guy pleads with the king, and the king has pity and lets him go. And then, remarkably, the same guy won’t forgive someone else who owes him money. And— this is important— it’s a small amount of money too. But the original servant, who’d been forgiven so much, won’t forgive in turn.
This ticks the king off. Big mistake. Jesus concludes the story with the unmerciful servant getting tortured until he pays his original debts.
And this story is in direct response to a question about forgiveness. Peter had asked Jesus how many times to forgive, as in “How far do we go with this forgiveness thing? Seven times?”
Jesus says, effectively, “Not even close,” and then lets us know that, before God, we are in far deeper debt than anyone needing forgiveness from us. In that story, we’re not “just as guilty” as the one whom we need to forgive.
You’re not going to like this, but face it for what it is, and say it out loud: “That person I’m angry with? I’m worse.”
Truth is, we want Jesus to leave our self-righteousness intact.
He wants to smash it.
Taken from Hansen, Brant (2015-04-14). Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better (Chapter 9). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.