No, I do not regularly keep up with the Miss Teen USA competition. However, I do check my Facebook “trending” tab a little too often. That is where article headlines like “Miss Teen USA uses ‘N’ word” catch my eye. For those of you who do not follow pop-culture gossip (good for you), here is the SparkNotes version. Karlee Hay, an 18 year old girl, won the Miss Teen USA beauty pageant. This led people to check her old social media accounts which revealed she liberally used the “N” word when she was 15. Such a degrading word of course causes pain, which led to people verbally attacking her and suggesting that she lose her crown. I then watched her apology. As she tried to apologize for her 15 year old self, the interviewer started lecturing her on the evil that she had done. I watched her until I started seeing myself.
I am no longer the same person that I was when I entered college four years ago. At the age of 15, I would not have been a good youth leader, and at the age of 12, I was not really even a Christian. God constantly changes me, and the drastic changes over three years became momentous. God continues to radically change me as I hope He is doing for you. While the sins of my past are a part of my story, they are not a part of my worth and character. Jesus has not only covered those sins but he has pruned me, cut those aspects of my life out. Who are we to try and throw them back in?
I think Paul could relate to this girl. Having spent a life of persecuting Christians, and supporting the death of Stephen, it is no surprise the disciples did not trust his radical change. Paul did terrible things and yet God changed him. I think that makes his words more powerful as he writes, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it [to perfection]. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul did not claim to be perfect, but he also did not allow himself to be dragged down by his past life. Paul recognized his past was not a part of him anymore. I hope you too allow your past to no longer reflect who God is changing you into. The past can serve as a reference point of the Holy Spirit’s changing work but knowing Christ has died for you ought to free you from all of its baggage. Those in Christ are redeemed!
Some people might be thinking, “Andrew, you’re being too naïve. She did not mean her apology.” Maybe you’re right, but this is no longer about her; it is about us and God. “But wait, Andrew, I don’t think you really understand the gravity of her using such horrific language.” I think I do. I also realize the depths of my own sinful past. Because of the seriousness of Sin, God’s forgiveness makes such good news.