I once had a pastor who never, ever delivered the Good News of the Gospel without first sharing the bad news. In fact, as he argued, the bad news is what helps us understand the enormous worth of the Good News. And what is that bad news?
It’s simple: We’re fallen. We’re sinful. We’re lost. If we weren’t, the Gospel would be just another self-help plan, rather than the glorious, soul-redeeming truth. “You are forgiven” is a message grounded in the fact that there is something to forgive.
That’s why the culture’s counterprogramming, the endless recitation of the falsehood that you’re “perfect just the way you are,” is so pernicious. It not only inoculates a person against the Gospel, it helps immiserate them, as their beliefs are in a constant tension with the witness of their own conscience. At a deep level, it’s hard to believe a lie.
And that brings me to Chris Pratt. Yes, Star-Lord. Or, if you prefer, Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation. Or, if you’re going to the movies this weekend, raptor-trainer Owen Grady.
Pratt is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. He’s also a Christian, and he’s not at all ashamed to share his faith. Not even at the MTV Movie Awards.
Last night he was awarded the “Generation Award” and proceeded to give a speech that was 100 percent Chris Pratt. In four minutes it was funny, it was strange, and it was moving. You can watch it all here:
He shared his “nine rules” for life, and embedded within those rules were a series of powerful truths. “You have a soul.” “If you’re strong be a protector. If you’re smart be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons, and do not wield them against weak.” “God is real, God loves you, and God wants the best for you.” “Learn to pray.” And then the kicker:
Nobody is perfect. People are going to tell you that you’re perfect just the way you are. You’re not! You are imperfect. You always will be. But there is a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that, then you will have grace. And grace is a gift. And like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.
Look, I know Pratt’s speech wasn’t exactly the message a Baptist preacher would share, but it’s an antidote against a lie. He’s speaking to a generation of young people who know that something is very deeply wrong. It’s a generation wracked by depression and anxiety in spite — or perhaps because — of the fact that they’ve been told time and again how perfect they are.
The Apostle Paul version of the Pratt speech is found in the book of Romans, Chapter 7:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out . . . For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Our lives are often at war with our consciences, and no amount of happy propaganda can change that lived experience. That’s the bad news. The good news, the news that stretches from Paul to Pratt, is that God’s grace overcomes our sinful nature.
We conservatives spend a lot of time sharing outrageous celebrity clips. We grit our teeth through awards shows. And we properly lament messages that have distorted our culture. But every now and then, there’s a ray of light, and it can come from unlikely sources, including from the lead singer of the fictional band “Mouse Rat.” Last night, Pratt used his platform to share some important truths. Yes, it’s a small drop of reality in an ocean of cultural lies, but we can still hope those truths find purchase. Or, to put our plea in the words of our Savior: He who has ears to hear, let him hear.