I hear he’s very nice. Joel Osteen, that is. Not God. A nice guy. Nice. You know what else is nice? Those videos of babies laughing at puppies. Autumn leaves. Nutella. Rice used to be nice, until they found all that arsenic in it.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice. And I never said there was so please stop spreading that rumor. When I go into the Walgreens and empty their shelves of Nexium, I want the cashier to be nice. When I walk into my favorite Italian restaurant with seven more people than I said would be in my party when I made the reservation, I want the maitre d’ to be nice. When I’m caught red-handed robbing a 7-Eleven, and the police have to give chase, I want the guy taking my mug shot to be nice.
In fact, it’s hard to think of a set of circumstances in which I don’t want people to be nice. To me.
So why is it that I have such a hard time being nice, especially when I read something like this?
Osteen confirmed that the purpose of the book is to equip the reader with a good sense of self-image.
“I think it’s all based on the Bible, but I think it’s principles that help you to have a good self-image and feel right about yourself, and I think God wants us to feel right about ourselves,” Osteen told CP.
“He wants us to feel valuable. Every person is a masterpiece, so I think when you get up in the morning and declare His goodness, His favor, His faithfulness, it makes a difference in how you feel and how your day is going to go,” he added.
Osteen went on to say that the 31 affirmations found in the book serve as “statements of faith,” meant to inspire the reader.
Isn’t that nice? So why do I want to see him sitting in a Sudanese prison for the next ten years?
Maybe it’s because of all those Christians in Sudan—and the Middle East and the Far East. Can you imagine them being sustained by this power of positive poppycock? If I really thought the hitherto undiscovered core of the Christian faith was that God wanted me to be the best me I could be, I’d assume that either the Bible had nothing to say about that God or that I’d failed God yet again, and so was not, in fact, the best me I could be but a miserable failure, and so there goes my self-esteem.
Also, what would the best me I could be look like? The me I daydreamed about becoming at 15? I promise you, God had no role in the making of that me. There was a lot of money, though. And power. In short, that me looked nothing like the me sitting here at this laptop typing this.
The Law tells us that we have a standard we must live up to. It also tell us, by means of our conscience, that we have not. So we have a choice: We can either lower our expectations of ourselves—define the Good down, to good enough—or we can find some way to expiate (or medicate) the guilt, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and try again. And fail again.
What we cannot do is what the God of the Bible says only He can do: throw the old me under a bus and give us His Son, which is the best Me no one can be.
In short, if God wanted me to feel good about myself, the Cross is the worst possible way to demonstrate it.
So the last thing I want is a better me. Because a better me is still screwed.
Which is why Christians who are tempted to buy Mr. Osteen’s book would do better to buy a crucifix.