People love trends: clothing, music, hair styles, hobbies, and home design, to name a few. Trends are also seen in our speech with each generation inventing new slang. Church culture is not immune to trends and fads. I’ve noticed in the last few years some linguistic trends among Christians that I would like to bring to your attention today: the use of messy and broken, as ways of identifying oneself.
In fairness, I surmise that the motivation behind using messy and broken as self descriptions is that of honest transparency regarding one’s status as a sinner. I get the impression that these people just want to be truthful about the fact that they are sinners, who are saved by grace, and who still struggle with sin. They are declaring that they do not see themselves as perfect or without sin. If my assessment is correct, that is a commendable motivation, and a truthful one. However. Because we are fallen sinners, there is a tendency to fumble the very things that we began with such good intentions. I am concerned that this may be the case with the current fad of declaring oneself messy and broken. I offer the following thoughts for your consideration….
In the New Testament, there are many exhortations to put our sin to death:
- Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
- and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
- Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
- What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)
- For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
The Bible is also clear about a believer’s destiny:
- For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (Romans 8:29)
- Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
- Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
- And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
The hip trend of continually declaring oneself messy or broken might have begun with a desire to be truthful about one’s sinful state, but it can become a distraction. How so? When believers’ consistently focus on their “messiness” or “brokenness”, the spotlight is on them and on sin. There is also the danger of wrongly communicating that since we all sin and are sinners by nature, that it is okay. Sort of a “hey, we’re all in this together!” It’s commendable to be honest about our sin, but it should always point back to Christ as the remedy. Sin is nothing to revel in. Sin is why Christ had to die. The Bible is adamant that believers be diligent to slay their sin, and mortify their flesh, not proclaim their messiness as if it were some coveted club to belong to. The Christians destiny is to become more like Christ; to strive after holiness in speech and conduct.
Yes, we want to be clear with unbelievers that we do not see ourselves as perfect or sinless. But don’t let that be the entirety of your message. Make sure that the focus is on Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, and the necessity of His imputed righteousness! When communicating with fellow believers about one’s struggle with sin, yes be honest. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16). Emphasis on prayer and healing. Then go forward, exhorting one another in pursuing holiness and conformity to Christ. Christians are not meant to wallow in their messy brokenness, but to proclaim the remedy for that brokenness. We are not destined to sit in the dirty diaper of our sin, but to be conformed to the image of the Son! Let’s be sure to have the proper focus: Christ. And the correct understanding of our post-conversion status: holy, righteous and set apart for His purpose.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Today, Elizabeth Prata at The End Time blog wrote an essay on this very topic. I encourage you to read it as Elizabeth does a wonderfully in depth job!