A Long-haired Son of a Sinner

gray asphalt road in between trees during golden hour

Some country songs get it more right than others. In this case, it couldn’t get it more wrong. But I do understand the sentiment.

“I’m only one drink away from the devil,” the lead singer of the band Jelly Roll sings, “I’m only one call away from home. Yeah, I’m somewhere in the middle. I guess I’m just a little right and wrong.” The popularity of the song illustrates its universal appeal. We all know what it feels like to be somewhere in the middle.

And I think most of us can relate to the fear that we have earn God’s love. The singer says he will “talk to God and tell him,” but the next line expresses a common concern and a fundamental misunderstanding of how a person is made right with God. “At first He’s gonna hate me,” he sings, “but eventually He’ll save me.” This message resonates because it connects with our deep inner guilt and anxiety that God’s love is primarily for perfect people. His love surely isn’t for people like us. But if we give it enough time, maybe we can win God over.

The bad news is if it were up to us God would always hate us. The good news of the gospel is it’s not up to us. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this,” Paul tells us, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The band shouldn’t be scolded for getting this wrong. Most people get it wrong.

We cringe. We cry. We drown in our shame. As the song says, we try to find comfort in pills and booze and distractions. Like Adam and Eve, we try to hide.

The gospel has a way of breaking through our bad theology and bad excuses.  God’s love is enough for the worst offender and able to outrun the most hell-bent rebel. It’s this or it’s nothing at all. Either God’s love is unmerited or it’s unattainable. I’m thankful it’s the former and not the latter.