Cop Movie Theology
MARCH 23, 2023
What if you follow all the right rules, respect all the right people, and things still fall apart?
I dedicated my life to the rules. The rules are good, after all. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the rules, and keeping the rules is probably even the best possible thing for the health of your life. But I wasn’t following the rules out of an innate love for the rules, or trust in their rightness. I was following the rules out of fear, and an innate trust in their ability to get me blessed.
There are as many bad teachings floating around out there as there are viruses. And it’s as easy to catch a bad theology as it is to catch a bad cold. It’s even easier to catch one when you grew up around a bunch of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-head, fever, so you can’t rest Christians. And the bad theology that suckered me into this karmic way of thinking was that my goodness controlled my happiness.
I believed there was some kind of system in place which, like the last act of an 80’s cop movie, punished the evildoers and gave us good and tidy Christians our happy endings. We got the girl, the promotion, and the glory, while those dumb sinners got laughed at, jailed, or maybe even a bullet to the brain—what we thought they deserved, in other words. But life doesn’t work like that.
There’s plenty of people out there that’ll tell you it does work that way. They’ll point to the misfortune of the sinful and say they don’t deserve any sympathy or grace because they made their shabby little beds and now they’ve got to sleep in those lumpy dumb things. Those people seem to want to feel like they’re better than others, and like they’re in control of their lives. I’m pretty sure that’s true, because that’s the way I’ve been. I believed my happiness was equivalent to my goodness. I connected good outcomes with people with good lives, and bad bad outcomes with people with bad bad lives. (That also meant I had to fudge the definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ a little, too.)
What ends up happening is we create an orderly little caste system where we don’t have to even consider those we disagree with because they’re obviously evil. We’re pure, we’re clean, we’re Reformed! We’re non-smokers, we’re republicans, we’re democrats, we’re straight, we’re white, we’re not addicted, we’re rich, we’re educated, we’re… quite annoying to be honest. And, annoying or not, that’s not very Christian.
Our goodness, while good, isn’t some promise of a good life. Neither is our evil a promise of a bad life. And, let’s be honest, none of us are good (Romans 3:10, for instance), we’re all in need of a savior to the same degree, and salvation is a gift. A gift doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. If anything, it reveals our need.
Find more from Chad West here.