God Loves Us F**k-Ups

Labels Lie Whore
I recently discovered People of the Second Chance (POTSC), a group that describes its mission as:

A scandalous awakening of radical grace in life and leadership.
We exist to overthrow judgment, liberate love
and live a life that rebels with grace for everyone.

I love that.

POTSC has an ad campaign, called “Labels Lie,” that draws attention to the ways that labels tell lies about who we are that can be devastating. The images are graphic, shocking, and deeply moving. They are the kind of images we tend to censor because our real lives can be shocking. It’s not the kind of thing you want to reveal in polite company. They reveal the ugliness that we are all afraid to show. They reveal our deepest wounds, our failures, our fears, our brokenness. They are heartbreaking.

It is precisely into that place of woundedness, failure, fear and brokenness that Jesus wants to come. Faith is not about certainty; it is about vulnerability. It is about having the courage to let Jesus into our screwed up lives, the courage to be loved for who we really are. It is the outrageous hope that we would still be loved if God knew about all the things we try to hide.

We need to begin there in that place of honesty, and then we need to hear when God says to us: These labels are lies about who you are. God sees us, all of us, and sees someone beautiful, someone beloved. Not because love is blind. Not because we hide things well. But because love sees much deeper. That is the truth about who you are. You are loved.

Also by Derek Flood: Healing Toxic Faith: Did Jesus die to save us from God?

These labels alienate us. They shut us out, they paralyze us, they destroy us. They are lies. That’s why we need to be careful. It’s good for us to be real, for us to admit our need and allow God to come in to those broken places in us. But we shouldn’t let ourselves be defined by these hurtful images, nor should we define others by them. Jesus did not come labeling others as “sinners” and “whores,” he came to write love on our arms.

Preachers are so afraid of that kind of radical acceptance and unconditional embrace. You probably know the story of the woman who was caught in adultery. The religious leaders wanted to stone her to death, but Jesus stands in their way and defends her, saying “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” One by one they all walk away, and Jesus is left with her. He then turns to her and asks “where are your accusers?” She looks in his eyes and answers, “They are gone Lord.” And then the one who was without sin, the only one who is able to throw a stone, says “Then neither do I condemn you. Go in peace, and leave your life of sin.”

Brave New Films

It’s an amazingly powerful story, and I think every time I have heard it told in church the preacher could not resist stressing that last line “go and leave your life of sin.” As if Jesus wanted to say “Now don’t take this for granted. You need to pull your act together.” These preachers are worried about behavior, but Jesus was worried about her. Yes of course she wants leave that life. Who wants to live in a broken identity when you have just met love? Those words were not an admonition (as if Jesus was having second thoughts about what he had just done). It was an invitation. An invitation to leave her hurtful and broken identity, and to enter into a new one.

That’s what repentance is really about. It isn’t about pretending we don’t have these wounds, and it isn’t even about merely changing outward behavior. On a much deeper level it’s about not letting ourselves be defined by these hurtful identities, and instead living into a new identity where we are loved unconditionally. Being loved like that changes everything. As we begin to see that, we can have the courage to show that same radical grace to those around us too.

Also by Derek Flood: What Does Jesus Think About Homosexuality?

This isn’t about religion. In fact, it is often religious people (especially the ones who have gotten hold of a microphone) who are the worst at using those hurtful labels. This is the kind of stuff that scares the crap out of lots of religious folks because it’s messy and dangerous and real. It doesn’t look presentable, respectable or dignified. But it is nonetheless beautiful. It’s about trusting that if we know what it is like to be radically loved, and love others like that too, that can change the world.

And so I say: You are loved. Right now. No matter where you are at. No matter how far away you feel. You are loved. Don’t ever forget that. There is always a second chance.

Derek Flood is the author of Healing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice, and the Cross. He is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, and writes regularly at his website theRebelGod.com. A longtime voice in the post-conservative evangelical movement, Derek’s focus is on wrestling with questions of faith and doubt, violence in the Bible, relational theology, and understanding the cross from the perspective of grace and restorative justice.


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About the Author

Derek FloodDerek Flood is the author of Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did He is a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, Sojourners, here at Red Letter Christians, as well as writing regularly at his website theRebelGod.com. A longtime voice in the post-conservative evangelical movement, Derek’s focus is on wrestling with questions of faith and doubt, violence in the Bible, relational theology, and understanding the cross from the perspective of grace and restorative justice. Follow Derek on Twitter @therebelgod and Facebook.View all posts by Derek Flood →

  • Pat68

    “…love sees much deeper.”


  • Why would a woman voluntarily submit to having W H O R E carved into her arm unless she wanted people to see her self-inflicted label and to have people think she’s a whore? Even if that is not the primary label God assigns to her does He deny that she wishes for that existential moment and likely for several following to be known as and perhaps live like a whore? When did the label “Prodigal son” get taken away — before or after the son repented, came down from the mountain, and threw himself at his father’s feet in sorrow and shame? What is the righteous behavioral treatment of a self-confessed whore? If we treat whores with patience and kindness — the first two positive attributes of Biblical love — does she stop being a whore? If not, when? Should labels reflect hoped for eternal reality only or temporal reality as well? What if a woman really wants to live like and be known by others in this life as a whore? Then LOVE her as one!

  • Dan Niebrugge

    Why does a “Christian” website/article feel the need to use profanity – even if masked with asterisks? Would Jesus EVER use profanity? Isn’t He the standard we’re striving for? You loose credibility with those who are seeking to be like Christ in every way when you do this. Abstain from ALL appearances of evil.

    • Digger

      You posted that comment 8 months ago, and still no up votes? What a shameful commentary of today’s “postmodern” world. How could your comment NOT be the first thought on every reader’s mind? Plus one from me.

  • While people keep misquoting this, “the Church is a Whore, but she is still my Mother,” the original quote is from Catholic Worker social activist Dorothy Day: “As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother. We should read the book of Hosea, which is a picture of God’s steadfast love not only for the Jews, His chosen people, but for His Church, of which we are every one of us members or potential members. Since there is no time with God, we are all one, all one body, Chinese, Russians, Vietnamese, and He has commanded us to love another” (http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=250).

    Q: isn’t there a famous whore called Babylon in Scripture? Could she be the true mother of Western Christians, seeing that both her & them have a long history of violence and bloodshed (genocide vs native Americans, Vietnamese, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc)?

    I don’t know why Evangelical Lefties and social activists waste so much time defending the Evangelical churches. Millions of dead indigenous peoples in the Americas and worldwide is evidence that Christians support genocide and oppression of others, especially non-Westerners. And this proof shows that Evangelicals cannot be the true Church, because “no murderer has eternal life in him,” according to 1 John 3:15. So just as Luther (although he himself promoted genocide against Jews who refuse the Gospel in his last book) rejected the Catholic Church, we must refuse the Protestant one, especially that of Evangelicals.

    Jeremiah 1:9-10 – build afresh and stop frittering away the time defending a Harlot who will only end up in the place where all promoters of genocide go.



  • Martin Peter Clarke

    Superb Derek. So completely and utterly true for everyone, especially those who can’t see it. The majority here so far. After nearly 60 years I’m seeing it of myself. I see it in my broken friends, my broken children. We must embrace every filthy, rotten, depraved, loathsome, shameful, ashamed, lost, frightened, hurting, unloved creature we have ever been. Especially our developmental creatures. Our teenage dirt bag years. We have to LOVE them. Love all the lost, frightened, sick, neglected, rejected, unloved people WE, each of us, have been. Not just forgive and understand them unconditionally but ask their forgiveness.
    Then, perhaps, we can start to love others. In fact being forced to do THAT first, can make us love ourselves as God does too.
    Either way will do.

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