This past weekend I watched the first season of a show on Netflix called, Damages. The show follows Ellen as she works for Patty Hewes, a lawyer who will do anything to win her case. While it is a legal drama, instead of following several court cases and how the lawyers solve them, the focus is instead on the personal lives of the lawyers and how they manipulate and back stab each other in the course of one court case throughout the entire season.
The show is really, really good. Just when I think I know what’s going to happen next, BAM! a twist happens and suddenly my mind is blown. Several times now I’ve shouted out “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” The twists and manipulations on that show are incredibly intricate and often you don’t know who’s pulling the strings behind an event until much later.
One of the things that I noticed quickly (because my brain won’t just shut off and let me enjoy things) is that the main antagonist has a strong desire to hold on to two different lives even if it means destroying the better life. Arthur Frobisher is corporate CEO who is being accused of insider trading and robbing his 5,000 employees of their jobs and life savings. Throughout the season, we see Arthur increasingly upset at his public image after tabloids publish hateful articles about him and a woman spits on him during a basketball game.
He’s overly concerned with how the public sees him and how his family sees him. He legitimately wants his family to view him as a great father and husband, and he honestly wants the world to see him as this great family man. Of course, when stresses come, he turns to prostitutes, strippers and cocaine to assuage his frustrations, guilt and fears.
It should be obvious to us, the viewer, that these actions are inconsistent. If the man wants to be seen as a family man, he’s got to put the effort into being that family man. A man can’t cheat on his wife and then expect his relationship with her to be fully intimate and ideal. As much as he wants to control the perception of the public and the perception of his family toward him, he just can’t. He wants to look like he’s put the work into his family…without actually putting the work in.
And I know we as Christians do this.
I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in a small group Bible study at my university this semester. I’ve been able to talk to some wonderful people who honestly love Jesus and want to know more about what God tells us. It’s been a pretty enlightening experience.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen some faults arise in my own life. I’m a recovering perfectionist and like to cast myself in the best possible light. When I don’t measure up to the impossible image that I’ve projected, I get frustrated, stressed and angry. I feel anxious about what my group members will think of me. I want them to view me as an expert Biblically and a Holy Christian.
I want them to believe all these things about me but often I have not been willing to work on myself. I merely want them to believe something about me without actually putting in the effort of being that person.
Isn’t that a little silly? Why would we want the perception of righteousness without righteousness? Why would we want people to think that we’re holy when we’re not? Or think that we have a good relationship with Christ when we don’t? Or think that we’re dedicated Christians…when we’re not?
It’s because we have elevated the opinions of others above those of God. We care more about how our friends think about us than we do how the wholly eternal God thinks about us.
We need to ignore the applause of man. Men and women don’t make us righteous or holy. God makes us righteous and holy. We must concentrate first on our own relationship with Christ cutting out anything that causes us to sin and adding everything that stirs our affections for God.
You’re not really giving anything up that matters when you follow Christ. Rid yourself of earthly possessions that are headed for the trash heap anyway. The applause of some stranger in a lifetime is worth far less than the gratitude and pride of God in eternity.