“Make good choices!!”

It was the regular Friday refrain of a security guard on my high school campus. We all chuckled and went on our way. I wonder if anyone ever thanked him for the advice. Better yet, I wonder if anyone ever followed it.
Make good choices.
The last few months my Google News feed seems to be chalk-full of people who made bad choices.
A football player commits murder-suicide.
Another football player drives drunk and kills a teammate.
Celebrities have their bank accounts seized because they didn’t pay taxes and other celebrities loan the aforementioned celebrity $100,000 to pay said taxes.
Bieber smokes weed. #cut4bieber trends on Twitter.
A star linebacker falls victim (??) to the ol’ fake online girlfriend hoax.
One of the greatest champions in sports admits to using performance enhancing drugs. To Oprah.
It’s not really surprising how much grief is caused by ignoring those three words.
Make. Good. Choices.
It’s unfortunate that celebrities have their poor choices magnified, recorded, blogged about, and revisited over and over (kind of like I’m doing right now…). But even as we consume celebrity gossip and mistakes for entertainment, there is also a part of us that feels let down, maybe even betrayed, by their poor choices.
When Lance Armstrong came back from cancer and won seven Tour de France titles, that was an amazing, inspirational story. How does a man do that? I usually have to walk my bike up a steep incline but this guy is literally climbing mountains on his. How is that even possible? And then we find out the legend is a cheater and what we thought was a man doing the impossible ends up being an illusion. As it turns out, no one can do the impossible. How terribly disappointing.
When we decide to put Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, Barry Bonds, and Justin Beiber on undeserved pedestals, we’re doomed for a life of disappointment. Actually when we put anyone on a pedestal we’re doomed for a life of disappointment. It’s axiomatic, right? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Put another way, we’re all going to disappoint someone else. Probably a lot.
That’s why I’m so glad it turns out this whole youth ministry gig really, really is not about me.
Sometimes I’m tempted to measure my success in ministry by how much people like me; like if I don’t disappoint anyone then I’m doing my job well. As it turns out, that is not a great measuring stick.
As I read through the history of Israel in the Old Testament with my Confirmation class I am reminded of all the incredibly poor choices the Bible records. From beginning to end the Old Testament is almost worse than my Google News feed. It’s amazing really…even a little disappointing. What chance do I have if all these guys can’t even figure it out?! But the poor decisions of sinful humanity aren’t exactly the point, right? The point is what always remains–the faithfulness and mercy of God.
So if the story of Israel is any indication of what is in my heart, and of course it is, I have a lifetime of ill-conceived ideas ahead of me. But a faithful and forgiving God goes before me. Perhaps these poor choices we see in the media have more than one lesson attached to them. Don’t do drugs. That’s important. But mostly it’s that the death and resurrection of Jesus blots out even our most glaring faults.
As all the crazy news stories and poor choices of our favorite stars come up in conversation with our students certainly we must be quick to condemn the poor choices and point out the consequences. More importantly we must also be quick with grace; quick to point out that even though we are disappointed a role model of ours messed up, we are just as imperfect.
As it turns out, making good choices is hard! But in the midst of the messes we make, Christ comes to us with grace and forgiveness. In the midst of the messes Lance Armstrong and all the rest make, Christ offers that same grace and forgiveness.