It took me three attempts before I could watch all of Mr. Bean’s Holiday. I really get uncomfortable when the protagonist is about to do something really stupid or embarrassing. Stupid and embarrassing are the main fare of that movie which resulted in my difficulty in watching it.
There are parts of the Bible that cause the same reaction in me. I don’t like reading the stories where our Biblical heroes resort to stupid and embarrassing behavior. For me, reading these stories is like having the dream where I showed up to school in my underwear. I just want to get out of there and back to safety.
What triggered this thought was a recent reading of Genesis 20 where Abraham went to Gerar and lied to Abimelech. I found myself wanting to skip this chapter and move on to a better part.
But Scripture includes this story for a reason. In thinking about this I can think of two of them:
- The embarrassing bits remind us that God works with flawed humans like you and I.
- The embarrassing bits lend credibility to the idea that Scripture is presenting real history.
Were I to collect stories to promote a moral or religious system, I would collect stories of victory and honor. I would want my heroes to be bigger than life and above all the petty nonsense in which I find myself embroiled on a regular basis. I would not select adulterers, murderers, liars, cheaters and cowards. Yet, these are what we repeatedly find in Scripture.
When I get to one of the embarrassing parts, I am reminded that it is all about grace. God did not select Jacob because of his moral uprightness. God did not select David because of his ability to do the right thing no matter what. God did not select me because I have my act together, because I do not.
I’m learning to be increasingly comfortable with the embarrassing bits of Scripture because they teach me a lesson that I struggle to hear, that of grace.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin! (Link for all the lyrics)