I got him wrong

I have a secret to confess: For many years, every time I hear a U2 song I think, “I really like the sound of that. I wish I was a U2 fan. But I just don’t know about that Bono guy…”  Weird thought, I know. See, more than ten years ago there was this Time magazine cover…

… and when I first saw it I snorted in derision and shook my head at the foolishness of a world always looking for another savior. At the time, I didn’t know much about U2 other than that I had more than a few high school friends who liked them and that Bono was apparently into more than just making music. Over the years when I would hear about Bono working on one campaign or another to feed the hungry, combat HIV/AIDS, or provide education to those in poverty, I always chalked it up to one more celebrity trying to find meaning in life by doing something good, missing the bigger picture of a relationship with Christ.

Then a few years ago I heard some mention that Bono was a Christian. Curious, I did a little digging around to see if it was true, but I didn’t dig enough. I found a handful of quotes, all of which had to do with how Christ was about showing love and taking care of the poor, and a couple about how he doesn’t consider himself the typical “religous type”, and I dismissed it. I assumed his “Christianity” was the typical pop culture pseudo-Christian zeitgeist, where the name Jesus replaces the name Buddha, but the philosophy remains the same. The harder messages of sin and grace, the divinity of Christ, and the exclusivity of the cross are dismissed.

Today, I found out that I (sinfully) judged Bono without really having all the facts.

Today’s Focus on the Family broadcast was an interview Jim Daly recently had with Bono. You can listen to it here: Bono – Husband, Father, Advocate. Very much worth the listen, all the more so because Bono speaks from the heart about his faith and how it fits into his approach to the world. At one point he is talking about how the New Testament speaks a lot about taking care of the poor, orphans and widows, and he says this:

“That is what’s at the heart – apart from personal redemption, which is the key – the second most important drive of the New Testament is against injustice and where we see it in little or large ways.”

His little aside is what really caught me, that he points to the redeeming work of Christ as the most important part of Scripture, and the work he does is secondary. As the interview continued, it was clear that he was reflecting a mature understanding of the role of faith and works, that faith in Jesus and trust in his redemption inspires us to love others and to help them, and provides vehicles for us to communicate God’s grace to others.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or because he had been listening to the same broadcast, but my friend, Christian musician Mike Westendorf, posted on his facebook page a link to this article not an hour later.

It is an excerpt from a book about Bono, which is really just a collection of interviews and conversations that the author has had with Bono over the years. At one point in the interview, Bono says this about the relationship between the God of the Old Testament and Christ in the New:

“There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.”

Right there is a genuinely Biblical portrayal of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Paul says something very similar in Galatians chapter 3 where he writes:

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” – Galatians 3:23-26

The word “guardian” used in that passage is the Greek word pedagaigos, which is kind of like a tutor or a schoolmaster, but in Greek society it is one who would have lived in the home and taught the children and kept them in line. A governor, governess, or nanny, if you will. Before Christ came, God needed to treat his people like children, giving them rules to follow so that they would stay in line. Now that Christ has come, he treats his people like adults, who know how to have a relationship with him where they do what is right because they know how to.

At another point in the interview, Bono says this:

“I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.”

Those are the words of a man who puts his faith and hope in the work of Christ, and not his own.

So, it turns out I got Bono really wrong. I need to confess that I judged, and that was wrong. It is comforting that at the same time that he was showing me how terribly I’d misjudged him, Bono reminded me that I have a Savior who has taken away that sin. Chalk that up to one of the blessings of fellow Christians, who speak the truth to us when we need it.

While it may seem a little silly, after going through this I cued up a little bit of U2 on Spotify. I’m really glad I did, because the third song that came up was Breathe. In it we find this little gem of a lyric:

I found a place inside a soundI found grace and its all I’ve gotAnd I can breathe

What an awesome cry of faith. “I found grace and it’s all I’ve got”! What else do we need? God’s grace is enough.

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and become a U2 fan, or join his campaign to fight poverty, HIV/AIDS and so on. You could, if you want to; it sounds like a good cause. But there are lots of good causes. If you still want nothing to do with Bono, that’s okay. I learned my lesson, I won’t judge you. But I will say this – be careful not to judge until you get the whole story. Yet, if you do, I pray that you’ll see it clearly and hear the message of grace as clearly as I did today. For my part, I’m looking forward to finding out how many other people will be in heaven that I never even knew were headed there.


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