Preachers in our contemporary moment have used the rotating chairs on The Voice to convey the essence of the grace of God. The basic gist is this:
We are the singer on the stage; God is in the chair. We are trying to earn God’s love like the contestants are trying to sing well enough for one of the hosts to turn their chair around, to tell the singer that they are wanted.
“You don’t need to wait for the chair to turn around,” the preacher aptly says. “God already loves you. And not one of us can earn God’s love, to begin with.”
This is punctuated with a peculiar reading of Ephesians 2:8-10, which suggests that we cannot be saved by “works,” but by grace and faith (which one or both are gifts from God).
This rendering is pleasant and draws our attention to the love of God that we find in Jesus Christ.
My curiosity runs wild, though, while thinking on this, further. Particularly because, as a minister and practicing Christian, this proclamation (though true because it points to Jesus) struggles to carry the freight of transformation within the individual. To use the careful observation of James Bryan Smith, we seem to only become “stabilized” with this “gospel” instead of being healed.
Perhaps it’s because, behind it all, this narrative simply tries to “improve” a narrative that is troubling for us. The human person experiences rejection by his or her parents at some point, mostly out of necessity for the individual to develop a self, not always reliant upon his/her parents for everything. One day, we cry and are not picked up immediately, but are left there all alone.
This deep wound causes us to hustle for approval, whether it is from peers, employers, coaches, parents, etc.
In the proclamation above, however, God becomes a hyper-parent, one who exceeds the limitations of our familial parents, for the chair turns around before we try to earn it, we are rescued from even the attempt of trying to be approved. The initial phase of this new relationship may be pleasant, but the wound isn’t fully addressed. Us and our needs still dominant the center, leading the individual to seek God for what they can get, instead of simply falling in love with God. The individual can actually develop an interesting “humble-pride,” having found a better parent-child relationship than others who have not become Christians.
This salvation might be “therapeutic,” but it might not provoke repentance, in the long run.
What if we could change where everyone is sitting in this metaphor?
What if God is the One on the stage, appealing to God’s world that has walked away? Instead of bailing on the world, God enters its mess to win it back, with a song.
What if we are in the chairs and are exposed to different songs and invitations to experience the fullness of life?
What if, halfway through the show, we hear a peculiar voice, One who speaks of love, sacrifice, faith? The unique shape of the song doesn’t draw our eyes “back” to a distant ideal that existed before we messed up, but “forward” to a day that God is constructed with the ruins of a 1000 broken dreams and disappointments.
As we listen to the song, we can’t help but think that this is the reason why we exist and that, even though the song will help heal us, it also beckons us to sing the song into every broken part of God’s world.
If we reach out to press the button that moves the chair, we sense that it will cause everything to change within us and it will alter how we want to see the world around us.
I can imagine that this song would cause each of us to push the button to turn our chairs around to see the singer and to take in the song. As we do so, we might just say that the whole experience is good news.