Disclaimer: I’m going to talk about brokenness, but not from a “Bible Scholar here’s what the word brokenness means in Hebrew/Greek” standpoint, but just from a concept that I see by connecting a few Scriptures together. This is more of a “thoughts on my mind” blog post than a “deep theological discussion.” Take what you will 😊
Let’s talk about Brokenness.
In Good Little Christian Theology Land, there are some areas in which we are all equal, we are all in the same situation, and we all have the same problems and the same solution.
The most famous of which is probably “Depravity vs. Salvation/Justification”. We are all equally in need of a Savior, and the Savior is equally available to all of us.
In fact, time-and-time-again, the heresy of “Works-based salvation” has snuck into the church, and time-and-time-again, students of the Bible have fought against this heresy with the truth of faith-based salvation, knowing that we did 0% of the work and that Jesus’s blood did 100% of the work.
Because of our work combatting this heresy, sometimes we overapply the “We’re all equal and works don’t change our standing before God” concept. But there are a few areas where this concept actually doesn’t apply.
One of them is heavenly rewards for a life well-lived in service to God. From the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Paul, it is pretty obvious that this is not an “all get the same thing” factor. It does not affect salvation.
I have become convinced that another area where this is true is on the topic of “Brokenness.” Not all are equally broken.
Where does brokenness come from?
Salvation comes from who Jesus is and what He did. It is a fixed need across the board, equally for all people who have been separated from God.
Wholeness (the Hebrew concept of “Shalom” or peace) comes from what Jesus said and taught. And there are different degrees for different people.
Therefore, brokenness is a compounded effect of our own failure to build our lives on the teachings of Jesus, compounded with the effects of the failures of the people around us.
If my theory holds true, then here is the idea.
- It is possible for me to be less broken.
- The more successful I am at building my life on the teachings of Jesus, the less brokenness I will inflict on my children, as well as the others in my circle of influence.
Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV) (Emphasis mine)
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Brokenness simply means this: The machine doesn’t work. The thing doesn’t work the way it was designed to work. The DVD player isn’t playing DVDs. The can opener makes a loud grinding noise and now doesn’t open cans.
My life isn’t functioning the way it was supposed to function.
This is the result of my poor choices that I built my life on, and the poor choices of others that affect me.
This concept was really illustrated to me by…you guessed it…watching people on social media. As I watch both sides of, well, any topic, I see a lot of broken people (I also grapple with my own brokenness as well, but it’s sooooo much less vulnerable to look at OTHER people’s brokenness. Way more comfortable. I’d prefer that approach).
I would watch someone declare their departure from Christianity, because the Christians in their life were Pharasaic and judgmental (A.K.A. Christians that failed to adhere to Jesus’s teachings, and therefore added to the brokenness of others). But they would run to a “Judge for yourselves what is right” and “As long as you’re being nice to people, you’re cool in my book” system of ethics. People who struggle to be others-focused, because the guiding light in the own life is the discovery and affirmation of their own identity. Their mission is to show others that “you can’t wrong me anymore.” Self is their center, their mission.
Maybe I’m missing something here…but can anyone see “wow, two years later, this person looks so much less broken”?
No. Still so much hurt. And the hurt keeps perpetuating itself.
I’ve also seen people run to Christianity as the door opened, but bring with them their old hurts, habits, and scars. People who receive the sacrifice of Jesus, but their lives remain just as broken as ever. Their same desire for accolades. Their same protection of their own resources. And seemingly, it never gets fixed.
Still so much hurt. And the hurt keeps perpetuating.
I also have seen non-Christians who actually seem to have a lot of their stuff together. They function well at social gatherings. They demonstrate responsibility. They act with kindness, expecting nothing in return. They are willing to forgive others when they are wronged. They are vision-focused instead of money-focused. They want to make the world a better place for others.
In other words, although they don’t believe in who Jesus is and what He did, they still have built certain aspects of their lives on things that Jesus taught.
This is why Salvation and Brokenness are two separate topics. One is about who Jesus was and what He did, and the other is about His words and His teachings. One can reject the gift of salvation and still make progress towards a functional life. One can accept the gift of Jesus’s blood and still retain dysfunctional habits.
And although depressing, there are areas where others have damaged us, where we are broken by others. A conditional love narrative that a parent gave. A discouraging word from a friend that stuck and went deep. An absent parent who showed their children that the parent’s career was more important than them, and their self-worth concept diminished. A parent that shoved their child’s healthy autonomy aside to protect the reputation of the family. A manipulative boss who got ahead by underpaying their workers, yet kept them with a “you can’t make it without me, you’re so lucky” narrative.
These are far more common than we are comfortable admitting.
Some of our brokenness is self-inflicted, some of it is others-inflicted.
But the good news here is that it does not have to be accepted.
Each time I am successful in plugging in Jesus’s teachings and building my life on them, I can take one step away from brokenness, for myself, for my wife, for my children, and for the people in my circle of influence.
Although I will not always be successful…each time I show my Taekwondo students “I still believe in you, even when you fail and break the rules”, I can take them and me one step away from brokenness. Because my Savior said to forgive 70 times 7 times.
Although I will not always be successful, each time my kids and I practice contentment by enjoying the things we already have, or even being okay with giving things away, we can take one step away from brokenness. Because my Savior said that “what to eat, what we’ll wear, where we’ll stay” dominates the thoughts of unbelievers, but that believers would learn to trust that the Father will provide what they need that day, even if it’s not the preferred food or dress or place.
Although I will not always be successful, every time I choose not to retaliate against someone who wronged me, I take a step away from brokenness. And every time I apologize for wronging someone else without excuses and accept the consequences, I take a step away from brokenness. Because my Savior said that if I’ve wronged someone, to drop what I’m doing (to drop my gift at the altar) and go make it right, immediately.
If relationships are a machine, then grace is the oil that keeps them running smoothly despite friction. I cannot imagine a functional relationship without grace (unless you know a couple who always treats each other right, 100% of the time).
I do not need to “earn extra salvation”, nor can I. Jesus did all that work himself.
But Jesus has equipped me with everything I need to turn my broken life into a functional life (ask me about self-restraint and credit card debt): His words and His Spirit. I’ve done some of the work, and I’ve got a lot more to do. But whenever He assigns me homework and I do it, it pays dividends.
I want to be less broken, and I want people to feel less broken because they interacted with me.
And I actually think that I can do it. Because He equipped me to do it. So bring it on.