You won’t see Hollywood scandals discussed frequently on the Together Blog, but sometimes the mirrors they hold before us are too illuminating to pass by. Such is the case with the current scandal in which actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and other wealthy parents have been charged with bribing their kids’ way into elite colleges. If you’ve been anywhere near a screen of any kind in the past few weeks, you’ve heard about it. You’ve also heard other celebrities’ two cents on the issue, most laced with a fair share of self-righteousness. Considering the media frenzy, laughing as rich beautiful people are brought low appears a popular pastime.
But let’s be careful. Self-righteousness is all about looking through the window at others’ faults without seeing the outline of our own reflection in the glass. Let’s not miss the lesson.
Before Lori Loughlin’s face was plastered all over the news and captioned by her transgressions, it was plastered all over the Hallmark channel and softened by flattering light. The favored actress played many roles, one of which was Abigail Stanton on a show called “When Calls the Heart.” Abigail was cafe owner, birth coach, impromptu counselor, foster mother, and even town mayor, and in each role the epitome of integrity. If you want wise, loving, honest counsel, go to Abigail. (Never mind the fact that her perfect make-up and highlighted hair don’t quite fit with a tiny coal town in the early 1900s–this is the suspension of reality that is the Hallmark channel.)
Is the virtuous Hallmark sweetheart actually a vile, conniving liar? I have no idea. I haven’t been called to the jury, and I don’t know her personally. Here’s what I do know: this story serves as a healthy reminder that all of us, no matter how flawless we appear on the outside, are sinners given to the most unflattering temptations.
The irony of the virtuous (and lovely) mayor now complicit in her own fraud case draws us. But how about our own inconsistencies? How about the sweet friend who secretly resents and envies her best friend’s success? How about the seemingly tender mother who barks at her kids when they annoy her? How about the sympathetic listener who gossips the new story she just heard far and wide? How about the blogging pastor’s wife who sees her own selfish tendencies tangled in her soul?
I have been all of these and more.
This scandal’s irony draws us because it lives inside us. The image we try to portray on the outside sometimes masks a very different internal reality. And when we look this truth fully in the face, our hearts almost burst with gratitude for the outrageous love of Jesus, who saw right through our thinly painted facade to the snarled mess inside. He saw the envy, the ambition, the selfishness, the pettiness, and the cruelty in all of us, and then he offered up his own truly virtuous life, drew us close, and washed us clean. He became our filth so we could become his righteousness.
Lori Loughton is no different from us; she’s a picture of us. May she, and all the other parents charged, know the wild, forgiving, disorienting, incredible grace of God who makes wretches clean every day. And may we view the sins of others, heralded across giant screens, as opportunities to lift our hands in shocked gratitude that “Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul.”