It’s a filter society. Everything we post online gets run through an effect with crazy names like “Toaster” and “Ludwig” and “Hefe” and whatever in the world “Kelvin” is. Then there are the filters that make your pictures look like you pulled them out of a box of mothballs from the 70s. You’ve got your sepia, your classic B&W, and that crazy one that makes you look like an extraterrestrial or something.
Think about it: How often do you leave your picture “normal” before you put it on Instagram? At the very least, you auto-enhance it, right? Or if you don’t, you go with “#nofilter” and that’s a whole thing.
While the filters make our lives look artsy and exciting and awesome, it gives everyone else a carefully selected glimpse into our lives. Only, it’s not even our lives. It’s a filtered version of our lives.
A couple weeks ago, I had a rough day. I was hurt and frustrated and just needed some breathing room. So I took a walk (or angry stomp…) around my neighborhood to cool down. We have a pond near our house, so when I got there, I sat on the bank and looked out over the water. A lady fished a few yards to my right, someone was grilling out on his back deck, and a few joggers with dogs passed by. And yet, I felt alone.
Every time someone passed by, I’d blink back tears, swallow hard, smile, and say: “Hey, how are you?”
And each person would reply, “Good! How are you?” and smile back.
So then I’d say: “Good, thanks!” and we’d both return to whatever we were doing. They would go back to their walk or jog, and I’d go back to feeling miserable.
You know what I was doing? Filtering. I was sticking the “I’m good!” filter on my life so these people wouldn’t know I didn’t have it all together.
I was a liar. I was not doing good (or well, to use that English degree). I was stuffing my junk deep inside so it wouldn’t slip out when I smiled. I wanted to seem put-together from the outside. After all, I was wearing a church t-shirt, so I had to be a good witness of the joy that living for Jesus brings!
That’s the thing. That’s what hit me as I sat there with my wobbly smile and friendly greeting and church t-shirt.
Somehow we’ve bought into the lie that if our lives aren’t looking awesome, no one will want to be a Christian. Being a Christian is always fun! It’s always happy! It’s always a good time when someone calls you crazy and challenges your faith!
Said no one ever.
Newsflash for me and whoever else might need it: Jesus didn’t hire us as a PR team. We’re not His marketing tactic or His event coordinators or the official face of Christianity.
What did He say?
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:5-10
That tell us something cool about our struggles: If Christ is in us, and we allow Him to work through us, other people will see His power in us. They’ll know there’s a God at work in the world who is greater than our own attempts at keeping it all together. We can boast in our weakness, because He is greater!
I’m under the impression that when we try to filter our lives, we also filter what God wants to do through us. If we try to bury the messy, we also bury the testimony that comes when God works in our messiness. We bury the message of the gospel; the message that says Jesus is in the redemption business and He’s redeeming every mess, every broken piece, every tough moment for His glory.
So then, do our attempts to make our relationship with Jesus look awesome actually hide how awesome a relationship with our Creator really is?
I’ve gotta look to Jesus’ example for this one.
Jesus was crucified with two criminals. Jesus, the blameless Son of the Creator of the people killing Him, hung between two men who deserved their punishment. Bruised, bleeding, and stripped of His clothes, Jesus hung publically, enduring mocking and jeering and being spit on by the people He loved to death.
One of the criminals turned to Him and said: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
Then the crowd, the people watching all of this, said: “Come down from the cross and save yourself!” And the priests and scribes and people who taught law but completely missed God in all of it, said: “He saved others…but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now form the cross, that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:29-32)
That last part gets me. They wanted Jesus to get off the cross so that they would see and believe.
“Jesus, I’ll believe you’re real if you fix this.”
“Jesus, I’ll know you care if you do this.”
“Jesus, I’ll never doubt if you change this.”
But here’s the powerful part: Jesus didn’t save Himself.
Redemption is messy, and Jesus didn’t mask that. He didn’t filter His mercy and save us in a way that looked a little less raw and real. A little less genuine and authentic.
No. Instead, rather than tapping into His divinity, He clung to His humanity. He surrendered to his weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties…so that the power of the Most High God would be made perfect in His weakness.
He was fully God; He absolutely could’ve changed things. But the will of the Father was that Christ endure the cross.
And because He submitted to the will of the Father, He showed us what real love looks like. Real, true, unfiltered love. Love the media can’t dictate, current trends can’t touch, and opinions can’t change.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” – 1 John 3:16
After my visit to the pond, I got tired of living through a filter. So I turned to a sister in Christ and shared my struggle with her. I was honest and told her what bothered me, not just about the situation, but about myself. She promised to pray for me. And I no longer felt isolated.
And you know what? Letting down that wall, clearing out that filter, felt a whole lot like grace. God’s grace.
It’s a big undertaking to stop living behind a put-together mask; to be real. But as we meditate on the message and miracle of Easter this weekend, I thank God He didn’t filter His mercy and grace. Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice, and His resurrection that final say in redemption. There’s so much life-changing, earth-shaking, awe-inspiring, gaping-mouth, teary-eyed power in that. I thank God He didn’t filter redemption and love. And I thank God He’s still not filtering them today.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5