Here’s a confession: I’ve said several times that when it comes to disability, we’re all disabled. Let me explain what I meant, some people have obvious disabilities while some of us carry disability in our hearts – selfishness, arrogance, bitterness, etcetera. After watching Mercy Me’s “Flawless” video I doubt I’ll again compare a sinful bend to a disability. I’m a visual learner, and boy did they do a good job of putting my, “We’re all disabled” view into art form and make me shrink in my seat.
The song, “Flawless,” talks about grace and what grace means. No matter what you have done, where you come from, what your past is, grace covers it all, all of it. God’s sacrifice on the cross on our behalf makes us flawless before Him.
“Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did”
Flawless, by Mercy Me
I like the song. I like the lyrics. I love the band, one of my favorites.
But the music video…
In artistic form the video begins with a white background and the band members dressed in white, yet they are covered in paint. Since the title of the song is “Flawless” my first thought was the paint is the artistic representation of being flawed, right? It’s creative. As they sing, the paint comes off showing the process of becoming flawless.
When they get to the chorus, the camera changes and you see a beautiful woman sitting on a chair with the caption, “Born with only a portion of her right arm.”
I thought we were talking about God’s grace here! “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8
What does a woman born with only a portion of her right arm have to do with her needing God’s grace? Wait…no… is that the kind of flawless they are referring to? Like, physically flawless? Because I did not get that from the lyrics, certainly not from the verses I assumed the song was inspired from. But that visual message…wow!
The next person they show is a man with the caption, “Lives with guilt from reckless living.”
Yes, reckless living might be what brings you to your face to recognize the need for a savior and His amazing grace.
Yet the woman’s missing limb and the man’s wrongdoings just got presented as equally flawed? The following people and captions had a little of everything, making it hard to see the difference between sinfulness, disability, and illness.
You see, part of the problem here is that there is a misconception in the Church, even today, that disability is a result of sin – or that people with disability need healing from their disability more than anything else. These two messages permeate our churches and they push people with disabilities away. Did you know that the largest minority in the world are people with disabilities? Just in the US 20% of our population has a disability, yet how many of them do you see at your church? My guess is not many. And have you talked to any family or adult impacted by disability about why they don’t attend church? Their responses should break your heart and help you recognize how little we know and understand disability, and how much needs to change in our faith communities.
The video continues with more individuals and their “flaws”. “Diagnosed with autism,” “Prone to selfishness,” “Battling stage 4 cancer,” “Doubts that God will provide for his needs,” “Lives with type 1 diabetes,” “Struggles with being the spiritual leader in his family.” And then the moment that punched me in the gut, “Born with Down syndrome.”
Two beautiful girls with Down syndrome fill the screen, one of them looks sad. So sad. As if Down syndrome was bad, and hard, and flawed. Down syndrome, the actual diagnosis, on the same league as sin. Down syndrome as a shortcoming. Something that needs to be improved, changed, fixed. Something to be ashamed of.
Let me catch my breath here.
My youngest daughter has Down syndrome. And one thing I can tell you is that she does not need the Cross to be “flawless” from her diagnosis. She needs the Cross because she is a sinful human being. If she were to be on that video her diagnosis would be completely, one hundred percent, irrelevant. Her caption would read, “Self-centered” or “Blames sisters for her own actions.” She needs God’s grace to cover her sinful nature, not to alter her genetic makeup.
It reminds me of a story a friend shared of a man with cerebral palsy who skeptically agreed to go to church after being invited several times. His life was a mess, not because of his disability, but because his life choices had left him an alcoholic and addicted to pornography. He was searching and desperate for hope in his life. Yet the only thing people at church talked to him about was healing. Healing from his disability. They told him if he believed he could get up and walk. Nobody talked to him about sin and God’s forgiveness and amazing grace. Nobody told him about the hope he could find in Christ. Nobody told him that God cared about him, loved him, and was waiting for him with open arms. What good would it be for him to get up and walk if his soul was still lost?
Mercy Me friends, your lyrics are good but your video punched me in the gut. I’m afraid your “Flawless” video is flawed and it perpetuates a stigma that families like mine fight hard to overcome in our faith communities.
I know from your songs and lyrics that you want to share a message of hope. You want people, all people, to know about the amazing grace offered to us. No sin is too great for the cross. But I am puzzled over your video. Actually, I’m hurt. I hurt for my daughters and what this video communicates to them.
And this is my fear, that this video continues to encourage the stereotype that disability is shameful and that people with disabilities need to be healed, or fixed, or improved upon. As if the main concern in our churches should be to make the disabled pretty and “normal.”
Perhaps it encourages the idea that people at church need to look perfect on the outside. But there are so many people (disabled, sick, healthy, old, young, rich, poor) dying on the inside because they have to pretend they have it all together, they are coming undone and they don’t know where to turn because they feel too messy for church, too messy for God.
Church is not for those that have it all together, church is for the broken and messy and lost. It’s us!
We are all sinful and broken, all of us. That truth extends beyond a disability. It’s our shared humanity!
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
This is the foundation of our faith, is it not? We are sinners, in need of a Savior, and Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sin. This is a gift from God, and thanks to that loving sacrifice we can have a personal relationship with God.
Let me introduce you to amazing grace: While we were still sinners Christ died for us! A gift of grace that extends beyond disability or illness.
Editor’s note: And it is my turn to extend grace to the Mercy Me band, and I hope you do too. Because the truth is that I did not understand disability until it was personal, to me. We are all learning, I’m still learning. But Mercy Me, if you read this, I hope you take a moment to hear from those impacted by disability. You have a great platform, and you can do so much to change perceptions on disability within the faith community.
Are you impacted by disability? What do you think about the “Flawless” music video?