The Privilege of Being Simul Justus Et Peccator

In late August, no small kerfuffle ensued because Black Lives Matter activists Shaun King was accused of lying about his ethnicity and co-opting blackness for personal gain. This situation along with Ekemini Uwan’s tweets (above) started me thinking. Why doesn’t our black family receive the privilege of being sinners without it discrediting an entire group of people?

The accusations leveled against Shaun forced him to share painful family history to set the record straight:

My mother is a senior citizen. I refuse to speak in detail about the nature of my mother’s past, or her sexual partners, and I am gravely embarrassed to even be saying this now, but I have been told for most of my life that the white man on my birth certificate is not my biological father and that my actual biological father is a light-skinned black man. My mother and I have discussed her affair. She was a young woman in a bad relationship and I have no judgment.

I love my mom and my gut hurt that his mother’s past indiscretions were drudged up. However, the Shaun King scandal highlights a common tactic used against black leaders and their movements—attacking the character, morality, or actions to discredit a black social concerns.  For that short window when the slander might have been true, Shaun’s personal failure immediately was presumed to hurt the Black Lives Matter movement even if everything they had been fighting against was just and right (whether it is or isn’t is a topic for another day).


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The Forgotten Essential of the Kingdom

We hiked through the tangled woods searching for something beautiful. The trees had changed. We started on an open path with towering trees and far reaching boughs. As the path made its way closer to the water, the trees changed becoming smaller and reaching over the path which narrowed. These branches were bent and gnarled like the hands of my grandmother.

As the path descended, the air become cooler. We also heard the gurgling of water which grew into a growl as we approached our destination—a magnificent waterfall with a devastating 420-foot drop. This natural wonder is not the kind you walk by without awe at its beauty and danger. It demands you stop. We found a rock at the edge of the river looking over the waterfall and sat. We admired the beauty and danger of this tour de force of water.

Christians above all should be the kind of people who stop in awe of beauty.“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

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5 Basic Postures Toward Culture

I recently returned from The Gospel Coalition Conference in Orlando, FL. I enjoyed hearing the preaching and fellowshipping with friends old and new. One of my favorite events was the Christ and Pop Culture panel with Alan Noble, Richard Clark, Mike Cosper, and Derek Rishmawy. This panel discussion started a conversation on the ride home with my travel companion and good friend Chad McKinnon. We talked a lot about engaging with culture and how to know when to reject certain cultural artifacts. It made me think that these conversations might be helpful for my readers.

In his book Culture Making, Crouch says,

“I wonder what we Christians are known for in the world outside our churches. Are we known as critics, consumers, copiers, condemners of culture? I’m afraid so. Why aren’t we known as cultivators—people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do the hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done? Why aren’t we known as creators—people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?”

So how should we posture ourselves toward culture?

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Reorienting Toward Togetherness

There’s a lot of lip service given to the idea of multi-culture churches. We want to champion diversity, but it is easier to talk about than practice. I hope to encourage churches to pursue diversity within their congregations and leadership by digging into the reason we should pursue it.

The last several months have highlighted the great divide present between Christians of different ethnicities. The death of Michael Brown and Eric Garner show that Christians who love God still can’t agree on how they should demonstrate that love toward one another. The sixth commandment prohibits murder. Many of us self-righteously check that box off our list. However, John Calvin explains, “Unless we endeavor, as our ability and circumstances allow, to do good to our neighbor, through our cruelty we transgress this law” (Institutes. Banner of Truth, 2014. 149). We often transgress this law by not doing the good within our reach. That is why multi-cultural churches are needed.

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Our Earthy Future Home

During the Arian controversy of the early church, Arius’ heresy spread through song. The heterodox presbyters wrote songs that the common man could easily learn, so while the Church determined Arianism was heresy, the popular vote went for the heresy. It’s not a stretch to say that what the church sings it will confess.

Many in the church today have a wrong view of end times and that has a lot to do with the songs she has been singing. In the tradition I grew up in we often sang,

This world is not my I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

A song meant to steel our nerve as we sojourn through this dark and perilous world. It’s a song that sets the Christian apart from her culture, neighbors, and the world. We do not engage and create anything in this world worth relishing, rather we are waiting to be called to Gloryland by angels where we will meet friend Jesus and shake hands with our loving family.

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Manhood 101: Sexual Holiness

I’ve been moonlighting over at CBMW’s Manual and wrote a piece for the current series Manhood 101 on sexual holiness. It’s admonition for men to stop playing the age old blame game and battle for purity where the war has already been won—at the foot of the cross.

I love The Valley of Vision. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a collection of Puritan prayers that grasp at the vitals of true religion and robust doctrine like few other devotional resources. It will teach you to pray. It will stoke your love for God. And I hope today that it teaches us, as men, how to fight for purity.

Purity isn’t nebulous. God requires absolute purity, an untainted life in thought and deed. Yet none of us will ever achieve that standard by our own effort. Thankfully as believers in “faith [we can apprehend] Christ’s righteousness,” as the Puritan says. The justice of God is satisfied. It is finished. There’s now and never will be a court who can say, “Guilty!”

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Using Our Privilege as a Bulwark of Love

The story of mankind starts with a serpent attacking the image bearers of God. “Did God really say?” “Can you really trust what he says?” “Don’t you want to be like God, right now?” Fundamentally, the Fall was an underhanded and cowardly attack on God through the image he bestowed on earth.

The story of mankind starts with an attack and is a cycle of attacks on the image of God. Think of the history of our habitation of this world as a macrocosm of the book of Judges. That book is a cycle of sin, judgement, repentance, and deliverance. Over and over and over again ad nauseam.

By the end of Genesis and the start of Exodus, the Egyptians are enslaving Israel. They are challenging that these Hebrews (derogatory equivalent of outsider as Joshua Torrey points out here and here) should be treated as human.

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Review: Trillia Newbell’s United

It has often been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in America. You have predominantly white churches, and you have ethnic churches of all sorts–Hispanic churches, Chinese churches, Korean churches, African American churches. It’s rare to see churches that are ethnically diverse. Homogeneity is even more prominent in Reformed circles. During my graduate studies I attended a Reformed church for the first time, and I was one of only three non-white members. Though there were some difficulties, to me they didn’t ultimately matter because I was ecstatic to be part of a gospel-centered church where the Word of God was preached faithfully and the doctrines of grace were cherished.

The wider evangelical world has focused on issues of ethnic diversity and reconciliation for some time, with prominent white and non-white voices such as Rachel Held Evans (Caucasian American), Soong-Chan Rah (Asian America), Brenda Salter McNeil (African America), and Orlando Crespo (Latino American).

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Self-Esteem Rooted in the Image of God

He was on his kick. They all had one. Something they had studied and come to the definitive answer on, usually it was related to a cultural issue or the rapture.

This particular evangelist had studied Scripture and found out that it never said anything about self-esteem. Loving yourself was bad. We don’t need more value. We’re disgusting sinners. Worthless. We need Jesus.

Truth mixed with error. That’s the danger zone. Flat out error--easier to spot. Error peppered truth--more difficult to spot. Truth: we’re sinners. We do need Jesus. Error: understanding our value as humans isn’t important. Nothing better to cause turmoil in the life of the Christian than mixing a little rat poisoning with the gospel.

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Borrowed Light Guest Post: “The Shame of Pornography and God’s Justification of Sinners”

Today I’m blogging at Mike Leake’s Borrowed Light. Mike and Tim Challies have been hosting a 31 Days of Purity for guys and I thought I might offer some encouragement to the guys who are doing this and others who may just be reading his blog. Without further ado.

“God knows I am worse than even the Accuser accuses. But still loves me as His own. Take my reputation. Give me Christ.” R. C. Sproul, Jr.


I recently watched Gary Wilson’s TED’s talk “The Great Porn Experiment.” In this talk, Wilson discusses the high stimulation impact pornography has had on men over the last decades. He discusses the correlative symptoms of pornography use like failure to perform in normal sexual relationships and depression. Immediately, it was a piece of a puzzle falling into place.

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Sexual Abuse and the Gospel

Many of you may not know my alma mater is Bob Jones University. I went to high school and college at what Al Jazeera network calls the “fortress of fundamentalism.” I was a born and bred fightin’ fundie. I don’t regularly keep up with what goes on at BJU. Most of the news I hear comes from friends and family who are still involved in one way or another with fundamentalism.

I’ve been encouraged, since my departure, with Stephen Jones’ presidency. He often provides clarity on essential issues. He led the university to make a good statement on their wrong racial policies of the past (there’s a few things I would’ve adjusted for clarity’s sake, but from Dr. Bob Jones III first statement with Larry King it’s head and shoulders).

When the Penn State scandal broke, he also initiated a review of BJU’s sexual abuse policies and hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to investigate past sins in not reporting sexual abuse. Those are all things I give a hearty amen to.

However, recently BJU decided to abruptly terminate their contract with GRACE. In BJU’s statement, they said, “Over the last several months, we grew concerned about how GRACE was pursuing our objectives, and on Jan. 27, 2014, BJU terminated its contract with GRACE.” I was saddened by this news and shared it on my Facebook. I stated simply that I felt this was a bad move. I slowly started receiving responses. Some thoughtful. Some asking that we be patient and see what happens (this is always a good move, but it shouldn’t prevent us from graciously sharing concerns in the meantime). Some outrageous. Some abuse blaming.

I didn’t expect the stream of vitriol from people who felt that any criticism of BJU was wrong and we must stand with BJU regardless of their missteps. From what I gather, a lot of this movement comes because many of the victims are quite bitter with BJU and “out to get them.” I know people like that so I understand the concern. However, (and this is something I brought up) can we condemn their bitterness gently and also feel compassion and understanding?

You see many of the people I interacted with removed themselves from the hurting person’s point of view. For those of us who haven’t been abused, it’s impossible to imagine what being abused, finding the courage to tell someone, and having that person blame the abuse on you or not standing with you to prevent further abuse or even lending a hand and encourage you to report the abuse to the police feels like.

Also, when initiating the sexual abuse investigation and changing their policies, BJU is at least tacticly admitting they were wrong in handling certain situations (even if the majority of the situations didn’t occur on campus or by faculty members). Sadly the kind of responses I received (up to the worst--which blamed victims of abuse by ascribing the abuse to some kind of sin in their own life) are responses I’ve seen time and time again when scandals break out in churches, ministries, or denominations across the board. What does the gospel teach us should be our response when our favorite pastor, ministry, denomination, parachurch organization, or unusual university gets embroiled in this kind of fiasco?

First, the gospel demands we see all people (including those who are bitter, hurting, burned, abused, and vitriol) as image bearers of God. This means even people who might be out to do us or our favorite ministry harm are God’s children from a creational point of view. It also means those who are wrongly vitriolic are also image bearers. Patience and love must be our weapons. We must not shame those who shame others. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Second, the gospel demands we see the fall as all encompassing. That means it doesn’t just infect others, but it infects you and me. It infects the ministries we love. It infects our favorite university. This honest evaluation of our condition allows us to remove the rose colored glasses that so many people wear when they love someone or something. And it allows us to be brutally honest when we and others fail. I fight for this kind of honesty in my family. I am brutally honest in my evaluation of myself as a father and husband. Just the other day, I snapped at my oldest daughter without listening to her. I found out my wife and I had given her conflicting instructions and she was doing her best to do them both. I had to tell her, “Your dad was being a jerk. I should’ve listened instead I just snapped.”

Third, the gospel demands we proclaim in speech and action its cornerstone as the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. That means the second truth isn’t heaping shame upon shame. We lovingly correct and admonish others. And we may find ourselves patiently and lovingly receiving harsh criticism--truth mixed with error. We can do this because as C. H. Spurgeon says, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”Also, we know these criticism are not part of God’s final judgement of us. We did screw up. We do screw up. But we are not screw ups. We are sons and daughters of God.

The often forgotten cog of the gospel is Jesus Christ’s ascension and reign. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father ruling. This should strike the proper kind of fear in the Christian’s heart. Not an irrational fear and loathing, but a reverence and respect for Jesus’ sacrifice and righteous rule. David writes, “He loves righteousness and justice”(Ps. 33:5) and later “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (Ps. 89:14). Solomon says, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3). Isaiah prophetically describes Messiah in these exact terms: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Is. 9:7).

Moreover, the history of Israel is filled with judgement from God on Israel for failing to enact justice and righteousness in her rule (Is. 1:21, 27; 5:7, 16; 59:14, Jer 22:3, Ez 45:9, Amos 5:7, 6:12). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that God’s main problem with Israel was how they did not enact justice when they should’ve. They failed to stand with the fatherless, widow, stranger, weak, and oppressed. You can see how Messiah came in the New Testament and fulfilled all justice and righteousness. He took care of the weak, weary, sinner, hurting, and abused. That means if the benefit of the doubt should be given it should always be given to the oppressed, hurt, weak, and abused. Beside the fact that false allegations of sexual abuse are rare (it’s far more likely to go unreported), we shouldn’t create a false dichotomy between standing with victims of sexual abuse and being unloving to those accused. Standing with victims doesn’t mean destroying someone’s life. But woe unto us who don’t stand with the abused. We will one stand before the perfectly holy and righteous God. We will stand before Jesus Christ sitting on his throne of righteousness and justice. Don’t forget that next time you’re tempted to say something stupid when talking about sexual abuse.

My only concern in all of this drama between BJU and GRACE is the victims. To have to trust BJU after having them not handle your abuse properly. To have that trust renewed when the investigation started. To have that trust bruised with the abrupt and unclear termination of GRACE. To have the prospect of sharing your hurts with another third party. I wonder if we could do better for the sake of the gospel. It does appear BJU and GRACE are talking again. That gladdens my hearts. I pray the Spirit would mend fences and humble the hearts of those involved in these talks.

[Editor’s Note: After posting this article, I saw this video from Ryan Ferguson, a local pastor in my area. He just absolutely nails the issue.

5/20/14 After going through all my old posts to update video link, I noticed the aforementioned video is now listed as private on YouTube and is no longer viewable.]

Review: John D. Currid’s Against the Gods

If you plan on purchasing Against the Gods, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.

9 out of 10 Stars
Author: John D. Currid
Publisher: Crossway
Reading Level: Easy

I thoroughly enjoyed Against the Gods. It really hit the sweet spot for me with just the right mixture of easy to read, practical theology and scholarly background on the culture in the ancient Near East (ANE). Reading Against the Gods will aid your Scripture reading in the Old Testament immediately. John will introduce you to ANE culture and shed light on how we should interpret the Old Testament in light of the growing history, literature, and background in the field of ANE studies.

Tweet This: The Old Testament undermine ancient Near Eastern literature by using common stories and culture in polemic ways @CrosswayBooks #AgainsttheGods

John argues many of the parallels scholars find in the ANE literature and the Old Testament point not towards strict borrowing but demonstrate the polemic nature of the Old Testament. He says, “Polemic theology is the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near Eastern culture, while filling them with radically new meaning . . . . Polemic theology is monotheistic to the very core” (25). It’s a way of undermining the polytheistic pagans surrounding Israel making “essential distinctions” between the two (26).

John then walks through major Old Testament stories which have counterparts (indirectly or directly) in the ancient Near Eastern literature. That ranges from the creation, the flood, Joseph and Judah’s tale at the end of Genesis, Moses’s birth and childhood, and different aspects of the Exodus.

See Also: Review: Tom Holland’s Contours of Pauline Theology and “Tom Holland: Justification and Creating a New Covenant

I was riveted while reading through these accounts and amazed at the creative way God undermines the nations surrounding His people. I’ve been studying on the topic of the New Exodus in New Testament thought and its significance for the church. You cannot understand the New Exodus in the gospel without understand the original Exodus in the Old Testament and the story of Israel. After reading Against the Gods, I’ve been reading through the Gospels trying to discern what (if any) polemic elements can be found in the life and ministry of Jesus. It’s a book that’s given me a lot to think about. I hope to see more on this topic from John Currid in the future.

Do you find reading through the Old Testament boring? Are the customs and culture in the Old Testament confusing and foreign? What has been helpful in making the Old Testament come alive?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: Michael Kelley’s Boring

If you plan on purchasing Boring, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.

7 out of 10 Stars
Author: Michael Kelley
Publisher: B&H
Reading Level: Leisure

In Boring, Michael Kelley teaches us that God is found in life’s ordinary tasks. We don’t have to travel to the heart of Africa or build an orphanage to have purpose or value. Michael says,

The truth is that we will all spend 90 percent of our time here on earth just doing life. Just being ordinary. If this were a self-help book, I might follow that realistic, slightly de-motivating statement up with something like: “Break out of the ordinary. Pursue your bliss. Go skydiving. Do something important. Carpe diem.” The same motivation, in Christian terms, might read: “God’s will is that you have a life of adventure. Get out there and make an eternal difference. Do something big for God.” . . . What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it? (4, 5)

Tweet This: “God is found in life’s ordinary tasks #Boring @MichaelKelley @BHPub”

Michael encourages Christians to understand God as active and present in our every day life. He notes many of us interpret our lives as functional deists. God winds things up then lets them run their course. Michael encourages us to find significance and meaning in the ordinary like changing diapers or paying bills.

We can pay the bills, go to the job, play with the kids, change the diapers, and whatever ordinary boring details real life involves, but we can do so in faith. We can actually begin to believe that what we are doing has significance and purpose. We can believe in the great and intricate plan of God, embracing His “forness” and the extent of “all” and believe that the donkeys matter. They have significance.

And so do we.(40)

He backs this up with a robust discussion of contentment and finding our value not in having less necessarily but finding ultimate value in Christ (50). He aptly reminds us, “God is not a miser. . . . He’s given us everything He has to give in Christ” (53).

See Also: Michael Kelley’s Wednesday’s Were Pretty Normal and “A Mundane Life in Christ” by Renée Bates

Michael uses the story of Saul seeking the lost donkey as a backdrop to his discussion of the ordinary. He also weaves in and out of stories to make his point. That’s definitely one of his strengths and something which made his last book Wednesday’s Were Pretty Normal one of my favorite of last year. He then moves through a variety of topics and connects each of them with our identity in Christ and gratitude for God’s gifts. Those topics range from marriage, work, children, money (a particularly helpful chapter), worship in church, and ends with a helpful discussion on obeying one step at a time (“Our priority should be to do what we know we are to do today, this moment, and not be distracted.” 201-203).

For those who might feel discouraged their Christian life isn’t radical enough or sacrificial enough or whatever enough Boring will reorient your theology of work and life towards Jesus Christ. Michael provides foundational purpose and significance to your every day life. If you’re like me and the mundane, repetitive grind of your nine to five wears you thin many days and sometimes you wonder “What other more important stuff God has for me?”, Boring will help you find the extraordinary God in the ordinary.

How can, as C. S. Lewis says, we restore “the sense of divine vision. . .  to man’s daily work”? What tasks do you find particularly mundane or boring? Have you ever thought of your daily tasks as a prologue to the really important stuff of the Christian life? How does your identity in Christ impact your daily living?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Resurrected Adam Reigns

My mind wanderers. I have a pretty vivid imagination. I regularly ask myself questions. Sound weird? Sometimes I do feel a little different, but that’s not bad. We could all do with a little more imagination and more question asking.

I found myself meditating on Psalms 2 and Matthew 28 and asking, “If God is sovereign and he always has been, why does Scripture emphasize the sovereignty of Jesus post resurrection?”

Tweet This: “If God is sovereign, why is Jesus reigning so important?” #ResurrectedAdam #Gospel”

Have you every thought about that? Seems redundant on first pass. Of course, Jesus has all authority and dominion He’s God. But there’s more to it and the details aren’t insignificant.

Once Jesus rises from the dead, he reigns at the right hand of the Father as a human until he returns at the end of the age. Jesus will not leave his throne until everything promised him comes to past. All nations will be taught to obey him and be baptized.

Also, Jesus sitting on that throne ensures your redemption is sealed. He is your heavenly advocate. He answers the absurd charges of the Accuser. “Guilty? Says who?” We are united with him forever.

That reality is also pictured through the work of our advocate the Holy Spirit who lives in us on earth. Just as Jesus advocates to the Father for us. The Spirit advocates to our hearts that we are Jesus’s. He is the hand of the King, as it were.

Tweet This: “Jesus reigns as the resurrected Adam--securing our future glorification” #ResurrectedAdam #Gospel

The emphasis highlights Jesus Christ’s eternal reign as resurrected Adam, the first fruit, the trailblazer for all other humans to come. We are, as Paul says in Romans 8, co-heirs with Christ. That’s significant. That’s worth meditating on.

How does Jesus reign as the resurrected Adam provide hope? Is his humanity crucial in providing this hope?

Bloody Valentine

I get it. I do. The church is a messy place. We’ve all been hurt by other Christians. Some of the very leaders who should’ve been our shepherds have taken advantage of us, abused us, and betrayed us. I’ve been there but I’m still part of the church. Not just the Church, but a specific church. 

There’s a growing trend of young Christians who’ve seen all the messiness of the church and have decided, “I  love Jesus but the church? Not so much.” These people have walked away from the church. Yeah maybe they attend a service here or there. Maybe they even attend semi-regularly but they’re not invested in the church. They’re not under authority in the church.

Honestly, being outside of the church is a frightening place to be. 

Cynicism towards the church is cynicism towards God. The church is God’s bride. He sent his Son to bleed for her--because she was filthy, dirty, and in need of redemption (Roms 5:8). Not in spite of it.

How many of you have quit working, going to your favorite coffee shop, or generally living life among sinners because of the messiness of the people involved in all those areas of life? Very few. Yet some how we think Church should be different. In way, “Yes,” and “No.” Yes we are the redeemed of God but we’re left here justified sinners. We’re not there yet.

Many of us (myself included) have had an unrealistic view of the church. We forget her wedding dress is white because it’s been dipped in blood. She’s a bloody valentine. 

You wanna know the beauty of the gospel? It’s the only worldview that takes into account all of life, all of what we see on earth. It says we have dignity, value, and purpose as image bearers. But it speaks frankly of the dark under belly of humanity. We are all sinners. 

So let’s not walk around glibly like we’re not part of the problem. Like we’ve never hurt someone. Like our dress was white from the start. All sinners require redemption by the blood of Christ and wait for groom to be perfected once and for all. We're all bloody Valentines.