keywoodblog

“You is Kind; You is Smart; You is Important”: Affirmation and the Christian Identity

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In “The Help”, the award-winning novel-based movie about the struggles of oppressed black maids to an aristocratic white community in Jackson, Mississippi, one line is emphasized throughout the whole story: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” These are the words that Aibileen Clark, a black nanny/maid, says to a neglected white baby, May Mobley Leefolt.

May’s mother is an irresponsible and borderline abusive parent, who Aibileen says “shouldn’t be having babies,” while Aibileen always steps in with compassion and tenderness towards the child. After May’s mother critiques May’s chubby build and overlooks her potty-training victories, Aibileen sets May down, looks her in the eye, and does a repeat-after-me, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Humans: Dignified and Depraved

When I say that humans are dignified, I mean that it is a good thing to be a human. God Himself looks upon humanity in Genesis 1-2 and declares it to be good, and still does today. We are created in God’s image and likeness. It is a good thing to be a human and to act like a human.

By humans are depraved, I mean that both the Bible and experience teaches that every aspect of humanity (individual and corporate) is corrupted by sin. We are depraved to the core–our bodies, minds, will, heart, are bent towards evil. All of our motives, pursuits, thoughts, etc., are, in one way or another, tainted. We are born into this and can’t escape it by our own efforts.

The Bible holds these truths in balance. Even after the Fall, God warns of the death penalty to those who murder another person, because “humans are created in God’s image” (Gen 9). That means that humans are corrupted yet still hold a special place in God’s eyes.

We see these two truths in this real-world example: A retail store realizes that people want their products so bad that some customers are going to shoplift. The managers ask the employees to be aware of that reality. But at the same time, the store that treats everyone like a potential criminal will not be successful. They have to affirm both realities to have a successful business.

In “The Help,” I don’t think that Aibileen aims for May to think, “I never do anything wrong. I am incapable of error. I have been perfect since the day I was born.” The problem is that May’s mother treated her as less than human, just like she treated her maid like she was less than human. Both May and Aibileen were slaves in the household, so they looked out for each other.

  • “You is kind” = “You do not have to treat people the way your mama treats them. You can be kind to other people.”
  • “You is smart”= “You will learn to think for yourself–to reason between right and wrong. To stand up for what is right.”
  • “You is important”= “You are special in God’s eyes. He sees you as important, and I see you as important. He spent time in creating you, and sustains you daily.”
These are good things, but I want to look further into these implications in the Christian life.

Christians: Saints and Sinners

To our detriment, human dignity only takes us so far. Humanity’s kindness, intellect, and importance, because it is distorted with sin, falls infinitely short of what God requires. Since God is infinite, holy, and infinitely holy, sinning against him is infinitely worthy of punishment. Whereas upholding human dignity can influence social justice, fair legislation, and so forth, it cannot save us or fill the void within us.

The Bible teaches that we are by nature unkind, foolish, and undeserving of anything except judgment. As far as a sense of “importance” goes, Paul writes, “If anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal 6:3).

This is why we need God’s grace to open our eyes and hearts, and lift us out of self-centeredness to see and experience Him as beautiful. That’s why Jesus came, to live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died, to present us to God holy and blameless in Him.

Nothing commends us to God, not our kindness, or intellect, or importance, yet He set His eyes on us and sent Christ to die for us. He takes our sin and puts it on Christ, while crediting Christ’s righteousness to us by faith. This means that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. After Jesus’ baptism, the Father says from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matt 3:17) He, in a sense, says to Jesus, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” And in Christ, we are His beloved children, so He says the same thing about us (Rom 8:17).

But this also means that Christians live between the times, when the “old self” and the “new self” wage war within us (Gal 5:17; Eph 4:22-24). This is why Paul says that he sees a war continually being waged within him between the Spirit and the flesh (Rom 7:7-25). Christians are at the same time saint and sinner.

Affirmation and the Christian Identity

Since Christians stand awkwardly as saints who still sin, how are we to view each other? If we are by nature selfish drama queens, are we to treat each other like that? Don’t we want to be honest? If there is an “old self” and “new self” having some UFC fight within me, who am I? And who are you? It’s like an identity crisis. Here’s an example of what I mean: If someone gives me a gift, should I thank them even though I know that all of their motives are interlaced with sin?

Christians are people who have been given a new identity–a greater reality. Those who once were not a people have been made a people. They are transferred out of the dominion of darkness and made citizens of an everlasting kingdom of light (Col 1:13). They were lost, but now are found. Those who were servants of the devil are now servants of God (1 Cor 4:4). Those who were enemies with God are now friends with God (Rom 5:10). “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone. Behold, all things are new” (2 Cor 5:17).

How did the apostles address other Christians. Despite all the problems in the churches as well as the apostles’ doctrine of indwelling sin (see Rom 7), they address Christians as “members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19); new people “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24) and “renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10); “partakers of the same grace” (Phil 1:7); walking to please God (1 Thess 4:1); “children of light, children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5); and “God’s workmanship” (Eph 2:10). They are worth having confidence toward (2 Thess 3:4). Paul also addresses Timothy as “man of God” (1 Tim 6:11). They are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1). Paul thanks God for them (Rom 1:8; Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 1:2; 2 Thess 1:3). They are elect exiles to Peter, and John addresses his letter to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). This doesn’t take into account the numerous times that they are referred to as brothers and sisters–family members under a common Father God.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t perfect churches. There is division, false teaching, sexual promiscuity, pride from knowledge, idolatry, cowardice, stinginess, lack of brotherly love; yet to each of these churches, the apostles address them as new creations. At this point I can ask myself, “Do I think less of my brothers and sisters than the apostles did? Do I play the part of the Accuser, who cheers on the old self and throws dirt on the new?”

The apostles wrote out of love to achieve something in the letters–to see further Christlikeness among the churches. The first step was not to brow-beat or threaten, but to remind their brothers and sisters of the gospel and who they are in Christ. They regarded the them as precious–as kind, smart, and important. This is why Paul affirms the Thessalonians that they are “children of light.” Since they are children of light, they are to act accordingly. They are not to behave in such a way to earn God’s acceptance, but rather to pursue righteousness because they have been accepted by God and called to him. This is also why they are urged to live according to their calling, which comes first (Eph 4:1). To address someone as “elect” is essentially to say, “Whatever I say from here on, remember God’s love for you in Christ. You are a precious new creation to Him. He rejoices over you.”

When I see things like this, I not only view myself, but others in a new light. Christian, the authors of the New Testament love you, as God in Christ loves you and gave Himself for you.

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Written by keywoodblog

March 21, 2012 at 5:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Very helpful! thank you.

    S Chen

    March 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

  2. Good stuff, thanks.

    Denise

    May 21, 2012 at 11:13 am


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