Is There Such a Thing as a Sanctified Selfie?

I do not often swim in the pool of American evangelicalism, but when my study (of the scriptures) and the stories (of those in ministry) collide, well, I dip my toe. Such is the case with the ongoing stories of transgressions and apologizes offered by Seattle-based mega-church pastor, Mark Driscoll.

I will not write here about the issues and concerns surrounding Pastor Driscoll (they are easily accessible on the internet), but I would like to voice one important observation I thought relevant to this discussion.

In my recent study of Romans 7-8, I realized that the Apostle Paul’s declaration of personal contradiction (“I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do the very thing I hate.”) found in Romans 7:15, is what my friends at Homiletics magazine call a kind of divine “selfie.” By definition, a “selfie” is a “picture of yourself, usually taken by yourself.”

Somewhere in my journey with this familiar but frightening text, a new thought came. As I spun the definition of a selfie around in my head, I easily acknowledged the first part of the definition, “a picture of yourself.” However, it was the second part that caused a stutter in my logic, “usually taken by yourself.”

While I do not personally know Pastor Mark and have not read all the “he said, they said,” machinations that have followed this popular pastor over the last few years, I did sense that perhaps the real issue and danger for any pastor facing accusations for which they must apologize is the haunting question, “Did I apologize because I got caught or because I recognized I did something that warrants an apology?”

The first happens as the result of someone holding up a mirror to my transgression, but the second occurs when the Spirit of God sensitizes my heart and mind to that personal contradiction that Paul pleads about in Romans 7-8.

The first apology happens as the result of someone pointing to my problem, the second kind of apology happens as the result of a prompting of my heart.

The first is embarrassed by the mistake of the past; the second is empowered by the opportunity of the future.

The first brings the weight of guilt from being caught; the second brings the joy of grace from being rescued.

The first worries about reputation, the second seeks reconciliation.

The first wallows in “total depravity” (“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do”). The second is humbled by radical grace (“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”).

So is Pastor Mark and the rest of who desire to align our lives with Christ just poor vessels of humanity weakened by predispositions and corrupted gene pools or are we as the Psalmist said, “just a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5)? Are we dust or divinity?

I count myself among those who lean toward the divinity side of that equation and one of my theological tenets for that conclusion comes from the late Dallas Willard and his classic book, The Spirit of the Disciplines. He identifies 3 stages of personal redemption with the third stage being a real, psychological process where “we consciously direct our bodies in a manner that will ensure that it eventually will come ‘automatically’ to serve righteousness as it previously served sin automatically (p. 117).”

Willard goes on to quote powerfully from Oswald Chambers: The question of forming habits on the basis of the grace of God is a very vital one. To ignore it is to fall into the snare of the Pharisee—the grace of God is praised, Jesus Christ is praised, the Redemption is praised, but the practical everyday life evades working it out. If we refuse to practice, it is not God’s grace that fails when a crisis comes, but our own nature. When the crisis comes, we ask God to help us, but He cannot if we have not made our nature our ally. The practicing is ours, not God’s. God regenerates us and puts us in contact with all His divine resources, but He cannot make us walk according to His will.

It is one thing to take a “selfie” of our dusty side and publically own our wrinkles and imperfections. It is another to take a “selfie” of our divine side and privately own our continued distance from God’s resources for righteousness.

I wonder, is there such a thing as a “sanctified selfie”?