In one of the earliest seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, there is that poignant scene where Meredith stands before Derek and simply says, ‘Pick me. Choose me. Love me.’
That scene has played itself out in every classroom and on every playground and sports field for generations. It has played out beyond childhood and well into adulthood.
It is the heart cry of every human being, young or old.
The rules are always the same:
Two leaders (either self-appointed or selected by a teacher or coach) stand in front of their peers and wield power. They get to choose their teams. The hands go up in excitement and nervous anticipation. ‘Pick me. Please pick me.’
The first two who are chosen saunter up to their leaders, feeling relieved and smug. They are the first ones wanted. They are the best of the rest; the strongest, the cleverest or the fastest. As the numbers dwindle, hearts begin to sink. Once half of the teams are picked, shoulders start to slump. Then there are only four. At this stage, light panic sets in. Tears are close to the surface and feigning disinterest because the main focus. You just hope you are not one of the last two standing. You hear the whispers in the ears of those doing the selecting. Being chosen out of pity is humiliating; knowing you are not really wanted on their teams is traumatic.
‘Tich Miller’ by Wendy Cope is a poem that will put you in this moment:
Tich Miller wore glasses with elastoplast-pink frames
and had one foot three sizes larger than the other.
When they picked teams for outdoor games
she and I were always the last two
left standing by the wire-mesh fence.
We avoided one another's eyes
stooping, perhaps, to re-tie a shoelace, or affecting interest in the
flight of some fortunate bird, and pretended not to hear the urgent conference:
'Have Tubby!' 'No, no, have Tich!
Usually they chose me, the lesser dud,
and she lolloped,
unselected, to the back of the other team.
At eleven we went to different schools.
In time I learned to get my own back,
sneering at hockey-players who couldn't spell.
Tich died when she was twelve.
‘Pick me. Choose me. Love me.’
When I was teaching, we were required to go to Staff Development Workshops. One of those was a Co-operative Learning Workshop, where principles and guidelines were given to managing effective group work within the classroom. One of the principles the facilitator was emphatic about was to not allow children to choose their own groups or teams. That was the teacher’s responsibility as well as wisely assigning roles within the group.
She went on to explain her reasoning:
At a previous workshop, she had asked those present to sort themselves into groups. She immediately noticed one of the teachers rushing out, distraught. As the rest were organising themselves into groups, she followed this lady to the bathroom and found her in tears.
On gentle investigation, the facilitator discovered that this women had never been able to overcome the childhood trauma of being the one who no-one wanted in their group. The command that day by the facilitator in the hall to form groups, brought back the emotions and panic with a vengeance. ‘What if no-one wanted her in their group? What if no-one picked her?’
Those feelings and the reality of rejection had never gone away.
The deep rooted emotions from rejection don’t have an expiry date.
That real life account affected me and the life lesson stuck with me. I am grateful for it as it has given me an awareness and sensitivity to situations that have the potential to make others feel excluded or not wanted.
Whether it is Meredith Grey, Tich Miller or the teacher at the workshop, the Darwinian evolutionary theory is exposed and highlighted:
Only the strong are considered important and valuable.
The rest are considered weak and disposable.
This explains Hitler and the holocaust. It explains the Rwandan genocide. It explains South Africa and Apartheid. It explains mean girls, the ‘popular in-groups’ and social bullying.
It explains fallen human nature and the narrative of history.
That is why, of all the Christian doctrines, I love the surprising and incomprehensible doctrine of unconditional election.
I don’t think there is any doctrine that compares in beauty and magnitude to the doctrine of election - that God would choose to set His love on me, not because of anything in me, but because of everything in Him.
The biblical doctrine of election is a welcome antidote
to the world’s rules and patterns of acceptance and rejection.
That is why Jesus came and wonderfully turned this narrative of history upside down.
I am not naïve as to the provocative nature of this doctrine – causing many to bristle, rant and rave and shake their fists at a seemingly unfair God. Do we truly realise what it would mean if God only employed his justice and fairness?
Whenever we start with man-centered thinking, we will always lose our way. When finite man-centered thinking attempts to understand infinite things, we distort truth. When we try to explain eternal things from a temporal mind-set, we will always get it wrong.
Accusing God of being unfair in His doctrine of unconditional election, exposes how little we grasp of a holy God who, if He was truly fair and only acted according to His righteous justice, would have been perfectly within his rights to do nothing and choose none. And we, as the accused, would have no advocate to argue against the holy judge of the world. Our guilty verdict, sentence and punishment would be completely fair.
I am not going to attempt an intellectual explanation on the doctrine of election - there are many wise and astute theologians who have done the exegesis of the election passages due justice. I am hoping to view this doctrine through the lens of the cross and a heart that is humbled by such unconditional love.
Why would a perfectly holy God ever pick me, choose me, love me?
Unconditional election has been God’s unfathomable plan from eternity and flows out of his abundant mercy and indescribable love for those who do not deserve it or could ever earn or it.
God has never chosen the strong, the clever, the wise or the best by worldly standards. ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ [1 Corinthians 1:27]
When God chose a people in the Old Testament from among the nations to be His people, and through whom he would display his power, glory and majesty, He chose Israel. ‘It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples.’ [Deuteronomy 7:7]
When Israel wanted to be like the other nations and choose a king for themselves, they chose Saul. ‘There was Benjaminite, a man of wealth, and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he.’ [I Samuel 9:1-2]
When God chose David to be king, he sent Samuel to Jesse. When Samuel saw Eliab, the eldest son, Samuel thought: ‘Surely the LORD's anointed is before him." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees.’ [1 Samuel 16:6-7] After each eligible son of Jesse passed before Samuel and was rejected, he then said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep’ [1 Samuel 16:11]
When God chose who to include in the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew 1, He chose Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute and Ruth, the cultural outcast Moabitess.
God chose a young and humble virgin to be the mother of the Saviour of the world and He chose the poor and lowly shepherds to be the first to hear the angelic announcement that this King Jesus had been born in a stable,
God chose the 84-year old widow, Anna, to be one to prophesy that the baby Jesus was the awaited and promised redemption of Israel.
When Jesus commenced his 3-year ministry on earth, the first men he chose to be his disciples and part of his team were ordinary fishermen. He didn’t pick religious scholars or erudite Pharisees. He picked the weak and lowly.
Jesus sought out an adulterous Samaritan woman. He sought out Zacchaeus, a corrupt and lying tax collector. He sought out Mary Magdalene, possessed by seven demons. He chose lepers. And at Calvary, as he was dying, Jesus picked the criminal, hanging on the cross next to him.
Jesus picked people to love who you or I would not have picked.
He chose those who would have been the last to be chosen.
The most magnificent thing about this unconditional election, is that through Jesus’ death on the cross; the righteous punishment required to satisfy His father’s wrath, God didn't just choose to save people from their sins. He graciously chose to adopt them into His family, as sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ, for eternity.
None of us deserve that.
There is nothing we could do to merit that. Our intellect, good works, status, prowess, popularity, talents and strength are like filthy rags before a holy God. ‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.’ [Isaiah 64:6]
Jesus chose to be rejected so that we could be chosen, loved and accepted.
If we could look at ourselves through the lens of eternity, we would never have picked us. We were guilty, vile and helpless.
Yet He chose us.
The double irony is not just in the fact that we would never have picked us.
The more profound issue, from our perspective, is that if we
were choosing, we would never have picked Jesus.
‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’ [Isaiah 53:2]
‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’ [Romans 3:10-11]
Yet He still chose to die for us; to love us.
None of this makes sense. It is impossibly and we cannot understand it. Arguing against a God with man-made arguments will never change the Truth. When Job questioned God and God answered Job out of the whirlwind with 3 chapters of rhetorical questions, Job’s humble and broken reply in Job 42:4-5 reply should become ours, ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.’
I don’t know why God chose me. He just did.
‘He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.’ [Ephesians 1:4-6]
I do not understand this love. It doesn’t make sense and I do not deserve it. But having received it by the gift faith, I will not have the pride arrogance to question it.
This is not about fair.
It is about the sovereign, holy and creator God who does as He wills. The creatures do not get to question that. They get to humbly worship.
In the movie, 'The Help,' which takes place in the segregated American South in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Abileen Clark, the African-American nanny says to her little charge, Mae Mobley, who is overlooked and ignored by her mother, ‘You is kind. You is smart. You is important.'
Jesus looked down, from the old rugged cross, and said to me,
‘You is chosen. You is loved. You is called by name.’
Of my own, being spiritually dead, I would never have asked Jesus to pick me, choose me, or love me. But He did.
That is the beautiful biblical doctrine of unconditional election.
For a Theologians' view, please read John Piper's article, 5 Reasons to embrace unconditional election.