If you’ve been looking for a way to spiritualize and excuse your favorite TV addiction, look no further!
OK, I can’t even joke like that without clarifying that I’m only joking! I don’t ever want to use the Bible to justify the things I like, as if they are the point and the Bible is the means. It should be the other way around. I do, however, love to find ways in which the things of this earth (especially the things I like) do point to God and/or illustrate or clarify some spiritual truth. SO – let me show you how Season 3 of Downton Abbey illustrated a spiritual truth for me.
Tom Branson, the Chauffer, defied all the laws of society and class at that time when he married Sybil, the daughter of his employer, a Duke. It was as much of a struggle for his new family to adjust to Tom’s new position as it was for his former equals and coworkers. To Sybil’s family, Tom was still the chauffer, a commoner, a servant very much beneath them. To the other servants, Tom was too high and mighty. They were bitter and jealous at Tom’s advancement. Who was he to think he was better than them? Why did he get to change his lot when they couldn’t change theirs? Many refused to serve him as their better, just as they also refused to let him back in as one of their own.
After Sybil died, a new servant girl came to the house, one who fancied Tom. She started whispering in his ear than he should mix more with the servants; wasn’t he one of them, after all? Or maybe, she suggested, he was embarrassed of his past and that was why he separated himself from them. She wanted to have Tom for herself, and her means to that end was to lower him down to her level, rather than raise herself up to his.
The head of the house, Mrs. Hughes, wisely saw what was going on and fired the young girl for not respecting the boundaries and rules of conduct in the house. She then had a beautiful conversation with Tom about his new role in life. She pointed out that the young maid had made Tom feel ashamed of who he was, but that he should never be ashamed of the man he had become or the position he was in. How I wish I had written her lines down, they were perfect.
The thing is, all the young maid said sounded so right. He had been one of them. He did still care about them. He didn’t think he was better than them, but he was now different from them. He had changed. He did have a new position, one that had authority and power and a new sense of purpose and responsibility to it—and that new position did affect the way in which he could (or at least should) relate to his former peers.
It struck me that this is the Christian life. When we become Christians, our position changes. It may be hard for our former sinner peers to accept the change. It suddenly sets us apart from them. We have a new way of thinking and a new way of talking; we may dress differently; we have new friends and new activities. Like Tom, we will likely find our former peers asking themselves bitterly, “Who is she to think she is better than us?” They may be hurt and confused when they think we have abandoned them in our new life, but we have to go—love compels us into this new life just as surely as it did Tom Branson.
If we aren’t careful, there will surely be someone to come along who whispers to us things which sound so right. “You used to be one of us, why can’t you come hang out with us? Why do you have to live like the Christians live? You weren’t always one of them. Come on down and hang out with us a bit—or do you think that you’re better than us now? Don’t you like us anymore? Oh, I see – you’re ashamed of your past and that’s why you avoid us?” And so it goes.
Let us remember that we are now new creatures. We have put the past behind us and walk in newness of life. When we hang out with sinners, we do so differently, no longer as one of them but as one separate, set apart, sanctified and holy. The one thing that makes our lives so different from Tom Branson’s is that Tom couldn’t offer to his former peers a way to become as he was. It wasn’t an option for all. We, however, have something to offer to our former peers. We can show them how they too can become a new creation, set apart, holy. They too can be adopted into the royal family; they don’t have to stay slaves to sin.
Let us be sure that when we hang out with our former peers who are still slaves to sin, we don’t become as they are in the name of being “real” or “relevant” to their world. There wasn’t a servant in that house that wouldn’t have preferred to follow in Tom Branson’s shoes and become a son of the house, no matter how much they might have denied it to his face. Know that, no matter how much they may deny it to our faces, there isn’t a slave to sin in this world who wouldn’t rather follow in your shoes and my shoes and become a son (or daughter) of the house of God, walking in freedom and power and responsibility and authority…. if they weren’t too proud to admit it and/or do it. So when we are among them, let it be that we are showing them the way, lovingly, with compassion, having once been one of them and knowing the true joy of freedom and adoption into the royal family.