The Bible is a book for dirty people. It’s a book for rebels, outcasts, and sinners. The Bible is a book for people who have been put out of the city and have no hope in this world. The Bible is for people like me… me and Saint Johnny.
I reflect on the Apostle Paul who called himself the chief of sinners and I reflect on the Lord Jesus who said that he did not come to call the righteous or those who are well. Jesus came for dirty people. Jesus came for sick people. Jesus came for losers and outcasts. He even said it himself…
And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at [Jesus’s] disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32)
My Bible does not look like a Bible for sinners. My Bible does not look like a book for dirty people or outcasts or sick people. It’s goatskin. It’s got “art guilding” on the edges (whatever that means). It’s got three red markers and India ink and acid free paper. The medium does not match the message! The Bible is for dirty people. Rebels. Outcasts. Sinners… and yet we package it for kings and the wealthy. This is lamentable on many levels (unless the packaging is for teleological purposes and not for ontological ones… but that’s a different article).
As I think about the Bible and the fact that is holds the words of eternal life for dirty people and sinners, I frequently remind myself of Johnny Cash. Saint Johnny once called himself a C+ Christian and then took it back because the grade was too high. Really he did…
“I’d say that I’m a C-Plus Christian / Trying hard someday to be a B / And I’m not gonna say / That I’ll ever be an A / Although an A is what I’d like to be / I’m sure God loves a C-Plus Christian / He wouldn’t love me any less if I was a D / So if I take stock of myself / And find that I’m an F / I believe I’d be in the majority.”
I too am a C+ Christian who believes I am in the majority. The Bible is for me… me and Saint Johnny (and other dirty, rebellious, sinful people). There is something very precious to me hearing Saint Johnny’s rough, earthy, and tender voice reading the Scriptures.
When I hear Saint Johnny read the Scriptures I am reminded that redemption is not for those who are righteous. Redemption is for those who are lost. I am thankful for Johnny Cash because he teaches us about grace, grace extended to sinners- of whom I am chief.
Towards the end of Johnny Cash’s life he earned an Associate’s Degree in Bible. It was 60 credits of study. Here’s what he said as he accepted the degree:
A Christian has an obligation and a privilege to study his Bible. These are great words from a rebel, a sinner, an outcast. I pray that those of us who are in the church would seek the Jesus who loves sinners and the unrighteous. Saint Johnny understood grace- grace that was found within the words of eternal life. What’s your response to the words for dirty sinful C+ Christians who are really in the majority?
You can listen to Saint Johnny read the New Testament here: