Hoist the Colors

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Captain Jack Sparrow. Not because of his cheeky spirit or swashbuckling guyliner, but because he’s who I am without Jesus.

A friend says God’s people have always behaved more like pirates than children. We invent ways to destroy, to rebel, to plunder, to make of this beautiful world a scavenged carcass. No rules for us! we cry on our unimpeded path to chaos. We naturally perfect violence and corruption in our black hearts; seas teem with the carnage we’ve created. The flag that flies over us is death, but nothing can convince us that we’re not masters of our own fates, captains of our own souls. And we pilot our ships and everyone around us straight to hell, singing loudly and numbing ourselves to the pain with delusions of glorious independence.

And then, one Friday afternoon, the sky goes dark and every pirate flag disappears. We all lift our eyes and gaze at the new crimson banners snapping overhead, and the ocean is stocked with very confused marauders.

What could this mean?

Oh, friends, it means freedom! It means unbounded life for the first time in forever! It means love, that reality so foreign to roving hearts, has come for us.

The truth is that we weren’t basically decent people when Christ changed the colors. As a matter of fact, this God-Man who came to break the curse we all suffered from? It’s His blood on our hands. And by the overwhelming grace of God, it’s His blood on our flags. The blood we demanded cries victory over us; it speaks a better word than any we’ve heard before. Jesus knew the lengths to which He’d have to go to set His beloved race of pirate people free, and He knew we’d turn on Him. He counted on that fact.

Why would I sing you a song of the sea on Good Friday? Listen closely, because it has deep implications for your life.

God is never as shocked at our sin as we are. He is profoundly aware of what we’re capable of—He felt the nails driven through. And He still pursues us with longing in His eyes. So many believers function as though they’re keeping a big secret from the Lord, that they can’t let on about how deeply they’re warped, because what if He found out? He’d run so far and so fast that it would shatter them (and they know they deserve to be shattered). So these would-be mercy thieves put on masks and try their best to look like respectable children who deserve to be invited in. God wouldn’t keep them if He knew how bad they really are.

Sweet friend, He knows. He knows more about your worst moments (past, present, and future) than you ever could. Those things that make you shudder at yourself, He looks fully upon them and comprehends to the depths. And even the best moments you have to offer are somehow tainted with sin because human motives are never entirely pure. It’s time to face the truth: you haven’t pulled the wool over anyone’s eyes, and He’s conscious of your pirate nature.

Then what comes next from this God Who Sees? A bellow? A probation period with a strict behavior modification plan? Punishment? Demands for secrecy and a life of pretending? Abandonment? No.

The cross.

Blood runs red across the seas, into our hearts, and it really is finished. Our old pirate selves are slain with the Lamb, and a scene from Ezekiel plays out as new beings rise from the dead. We live truth when we abandon our swarthy rhythms and turn plundering into peacemaking. Hope replaces despair, beauty found among the ashes. How funny, we think: we’ve spent our whole lives hunting for treasure, and Treasure came hunting for us. We couldn’t escape Him, thank goodness. So we meet up and swap stories about pirates turned princes and sinners turned saints, singing each other home.

One thing I love about this new resurrection life? Dead men tell the best tales.

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