This short commercial about Derrick Coleman's (Seattle Seahawks) journey to the NFL has been getting a lot of attention leading up to the Super Bowl. Why? Because he's been deaf since he was three years old. His story is incredible and deeply moving, whether you're a football fan or not. And it got me thinking. Why do we love stories like this? Outsiders becoming insiders. Underdogs coming behind for the win. The weak overcoming the strong. The powerless out-performing the powerful. The bullied overcoming the bully. Clearly these stories are powerful, but why? Because deep down we know we are "outsiders" and remind us of our deep felt desire to be "inside". You may think I'm reading too much into this, but hang with me.
Whether we recognize it or not, much of our lives are spent trying to get on the "inside". We inherently know that we're unacceptable and must do something to change that. The Bible tells us that this sense of being an "outsider" is a result of being shut out from the presence of God (Gen 3). In other words, we feel like "outsiders" because we are "outsiders". We therefore spend our lives trying to become an "insider" among circles of importance or influence to lose our sense of being "outside", whether on the playground, the neighborhood mom's group or the board room. Yet, though it may help for bit, it doesn't last and there is always a nagging feeling that if those among us really knew who we were they would not let us in.
So we cover up. We change what we wear, we try to impress others, we get degrees, we obsess about body image, we study up on "how to win friends and influence people", we climb the corporate ladder, we paste on smiles, we try harder, and we rack up achievements to show others that we are worthy of being welcomed "inside". Or, if it doesn't work, we simply resort to numbing the reality of being "outside" through various forms of escape (e.g. television, entertainment, pornography, drugs or alcohol). We know there is something wrong, so we compensate. We blame our parents, we blame our genetics, we blame our environment, we blame our government and more. Tim Keller points out that the liberal thing to say is, "I feel alienated because it is an unjust society." While the conservative things to say is, "I feel alienated because I haven't done enough." But, amidst all of this, we're still left feeling "outside".
The real reason we feel like "outsiders" has nothing to do with those around us or the opportunities we've had (though those can aggravate our feeling of being "outside"). The reason we feel like "outsiders" is that by nature and choice we are shut out from the presence of God due to our sin, shame and guilt. We know we can't just go to God because there is something wrong with us that only God can cure - and that's exactly what he offers us. Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man, became an "outsider" on the cross so that we might become "insiders" with God himself. He took our sin, guilt and shame - all that places us "outside" God's presence - on the cross and gives us his forgiveness, love and grace - to bring us "inside". All of our longings to be "inside" are satisfied by being brought in by God, through faith in Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is the good news that "outsiders" can become "insiders". We love stories like the one above, whether we realize it or not, because it is a snapshot of the gospel itself.