Most everyone’s heard about it by now. I don’t have cable or satellite TV and I heard about it.
Former Disney kid star Miley Cyrus’ song and dance performance with a married and old enough to know better Robin Thicke on the MTV awards show stunned many and horrified most. When liberal and conservative pundits agree on a line, it’s a miracle. When both sides agree that said line has been crossed, you didn’t merely step over it. You blew past it like the General Lee running from Boss Hogg in the last ten minutes of a Dukes Of Hazzard episode.
In the entertainment industry they say any publicity is good publicity. Good, bad or lewd, Miley’s twerky dance exploded the Twitter world at a tweet rate even the Super Bowl couldn’t compete with. It’s ignited lively discussions and debates on social media and around kitchen tables. The critique on Miley ranges from “she’s a product of the Disney child star culture” to “she should be ashamed of herself” to “she’s an adult who can do as she pleases and we don’t have to like it.” The truth is likely a mash up of all the above.
Rather than take Miley to the woodshed, which she probably deserves, I’m more concerned about the mindset of those of us (myself included) who claim the name of Christ. In our critique, are we giving ourselves equal scrutiny? If our thoughts on Miley were prancing around on stage for the world to see the way they saw her, what would be on display?
Myth: I’m better than Miley Cyrus because (fill in the blank).
It’s an understandable thought. She was beyond “out there” in her vulgar behavior. But why? Why am I better? Or you, for that matter? Because I don’t simulate sex acts with people dressed in bear costumes on national television? Because I don’t try to make people forget Gene Simmons’ tongue? Because I don’t sing “we can love who we want and can kiss who we want”? Because I don’t turn a foam finger into a sex toy?
Not doing these doesn’t make me better than Miley. In fact, it doesn’t even make me less bad.
It’s one of the first Bible verses we learn as kids. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23. After five years of intense graduate school study in a Master of Divinity program, I can tell you that in the original Greek text the word “all” means…
Profound, isn’t it? It’s a critical three letter word we need to remember. Because our standard of measure isn’t measuring ourselves against Miley’s righteousness. It’s measuring ourselves against God’s holy perfection. Which brings us to the next myth.
Myth: There are varying degrees of sin. And Miley’s degree is way worse than mine.
We like to think that, in this case, Miley’s sin is worse than ours because she was bumping and grinding while dressed in a nude bikini, singing lyrics that would make a dock worker blush. That has to be a bigger sin than whatever rude and private thought I had about her while viewing a clip of her performance. Right?
In a word, no. It’s not worse. Because there are no varying degrees of sin. Apart from the saving blood of Jesus Christ, sin has but one degree.
But, Todd! I’ve never even shaken my booty on my backyard deck or showed off the junk in my trunk to the squirrels in the trees let alone gyrate like Miley did in front of millions in what amounted to a couple thin strips of cloth away from a birthday suit. There’s no way I’m in the same category as her!
Which brings us to another myth.
Myth: Small offenses aren’t as offensive to God as big offenses. And Miley was as offensive as one could be.
While we humans do it all the time, God doesn’t judge on a sliding scale. Never confuse the consequences of sin with the degree of sin. Sin has one degree apart from Christ’s salvation. Death.
To stick with the current discussion, Miley’s obscene dance was broadcast to an audience of millions. Her poor example was viewed by young girls who, either as fans of her Hannah Montana character or her current “I’m not a kid anymore” rebellious image, have put her on a pedestal. Miley was exponential in her negative influence and there will be consequences for that. If not now, then when she someday stands before God.
A Christian watching Miley’s performance silently thinking, “What a nasty girl. I’m so much better than her”, is guilty of pride. And perhaps a haughty spirit. No one else will ever know your mind, except for God. And it’s His standard of perfection we measure ourselves against.
Simply put, apart from Christ, a private sinful thought in one’s mind will send one to hell just as surely as a public sinful display to the world. The consequences for each will be different. Miley’s being critiqued around the world, including here. No one’s tweeting about your or my proud private thought. Yet apart from Christ, they are both deadly.
Speaking of deadly, one more myth.
Myth: Comparing myself with others is a good barometer of how I’m doing spiritually. I’m glad I’m doing way better than Miley.
Comparing our sins with the sins of others is a waste of time. Think of it this way.
You’re in a long jump contest at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Miley’s a lousy jumper. After a running start she only makes it out about 10 feet.
You’re a world class athlete. Olympic caliber. You sprint down the runway and launch out 29 feet.
Comparing our sins with one another is like a long jump contest at the rim of the Grand Canyon. No matter how good you are, the result is death. There’s only One we should measure ourselves against and that’s Jesus. When we stand, we stand alone in His forgiveness, mercy and grace. The question isn’t are we sinning less or more acceptably than Miley Cyrus. The question is are we becoming transformed into the image of Christ?
Tomorrow’s another day. Who knows what we’ll see in the paper about Miley. Maybe she will tone it down. Maybe her next stunt will make the hair horns and foam finger look tame. Whatever she does or doesn’t do, God expects us to be critical thinkers and wise observers of our culture. He doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door. Yet He does want us to make sure we’re looking in the mirror of godly introspection before we think about taking the stage of indignation. Above all, remembering always that the grace God freely extends to us is available to everyone.
Todd A. Thompson – August 27, 2013