I spent this past season of “The Bachelorette” like I usually do — Instagramming scenes from the show along with snarky commentary highlighting its most ridiculous aspects. Because I’m mature and spend my spare time wisely.
In case you aren’t up on one of the most dramatic seasons of “The Bachelorette” ever (aren’t they all?), this season highlighted an angst-filled relationship between bachelorette Hannah Brown and one of the show’s contestants, Luke Parker. Luke and Hannah were instantly attracted to one another physically, but apparently they also connected through their shared Christian faith. Although the show didn’t highlight their faith specifically, it became apparent that the couple had shared values and beliefs.
Luke was a controversial figure throughout the entire season, and from almost the beginning viewers were begging Hannah to send him home. But he made it all the way to the “fantasy suite” date — the one where a finalist is usually invited to spend the night with the bachelorette.
It was during dinner on Luke’s fantasy suite date that he brought up the topic of sex. He told Hannah that if she’d had sex with any of the other guys, he would choose to go home because that would conflict with the convictions he and Hannah had discussed and supposedly had in common. (Luke is not a virgin, but he has recommitted to celibacy until marriage.)
During this conversation, Hannah got quite angry with Luke. She said he didn’t have the right to question her because he wasn’t her husband, and eventually she said that yes, she has had sex, and “Jesus still loves me.”
As I watched this exchange, I quit my sarcastic Instagramming and instead wished that this whole scene had gone differently. I especially wished this days later when I saw “Bachelorette” fans wearing t-shirts sporting a windmill (the spot where Hannah had sex with one of the other contestants) and the phrase “Jesus still loves me.”
Here’s the thing: Luke was terrible and should have been sent home weeks before. As Hannah pointed out, Luke had recurring character problems as well: He was filled with pride, he blatantly lied multiple times, and he was incredibly argumentative. And now even after the season’s end, Luke doesn’t seem to have repented of those things. He seems oblivious to his own sins even while calling Hannah out on hers (I think most of us struggle with this — something about a speck and a plank comes to mind).
However, I also lamented Hannah’s poor theology and the message she sent to the world. Yes, there is truth to Hannah’s statement: She has had sex, and Jesus still loves her. That is the amazing thing about our God — He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
But at the same time, Hannah doesn’t regret what she did. And while she says that she understands that she can’t just do whatever she wants and then fall back on the fact that “Jesus still loves her,” it doesn’t seem to be what she is demonstrating.
As it goes with sin, none of this is new. Hannah’s issue on “The Bachelorette” was addressed ages ago by the Apostle Paul. In Romans 5, Paul talks about how as sin increased, grace increased all the more. More sin, more grace.
But Paul, knowing how our minds work, then addresses our next question before we even ask it: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1) I mean, if we can sin and Jesus has the opportunity to showcase more of His grace, why should we stop? Well, Paul tells us why: “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2)
As people saved by the grace of Jesus, we then follow Him and His way. John reminds us that if we truly know Jesus, we’ll obey Him and live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6) Not only are we able to obey Him, we now have new hearts that want to obey Him. (Ezek. 36:26)
Fortunately, we don’t have to do this on our own. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to counsel us in truth and help us walk in His way. When we fail, Jesus continues to love and forgive us, yes, but this doesn’t give us license to avoid obeying Him in the first place.
If we are truly disciples of Jesus, we trust that His way is the very best. We are broken by our sin, and we repent of it; we don’t celebrate it by wearing “Jesus still loves me” t-shirts.
I mean, hopefully none of us go into a season of “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” looking for strong theology or Christian role models. I clearly go into it looking for ways to sharpen my sarcastic wit. But overall, this season’s drama was a good opportunity for us to think through what it means to be saved by grace and then to live in a way that honors and glorifies that grace — instead of taking advantage of it.
Copyright 2019 Denise Morris Snyder. All rights reserved.