Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
One of the great moments of the television show The Walking Dead comes in Episode Two when a bunch of survivors are trapped in a building by what seems to be the entire zombie population of post-zompocalyptic Atlanta, GA. The zombies know they are in the building, and it is just a matter of time before numbers and brute force overcome the locked doors and meager defenses.
Our hero, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes, figures out that the zombies distinguish zombie from delicious non-zombie (plausibility awaits another day to make her debut) by their sense of smell. An escape vehicle is spotted a couple of blocks away but the zombie horde is between it and the survivors. How, then, is one to survive for the rest of Season 1 and make a go at Season 2? Easy. Chop up a zombie that has already been dispatched, smear the grime all over yourself, pretend like you are a zombie, and walk through the zombie foot traffic to the escape vehicle. And you thought your day was stressful.
The serious and genuinely moving part comes here. After procuring said dispatched zombie, Grimes is about to begin the “operation” and stops himself. He looks over the corpse and takes the zombie’s wallet out of its back pocket.
“Wayne Dunlap… Georgia license… born 1979. He had 28 dollars in his pocket when he died… and a picture of a pretty girl… ‘With love, Rachel.’ He used to be like us… worried about bills, or the rain, or the Superbowl… If I ever find my family, I’m going to tell them about Wayne.”
There is something profoundly Christian and humane about this scene. It is very different from the nihilistic Woody Harrelson-like approach of other zombie shows and movies that bludgeon without reflection on what might be the story of the bludgeoned. Grimes, in a more self-aware fashion, recognizes its inability to do anything contrary to the condition in which it finds itself. He has compassion and gives Wayne Dunlap the eulogy he never had. All to a zombie that posed risk to life and limb a few hours earlier.
This is quite a good analogy for God’s “justification of the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5) in that it helps us understand God’s understanding of us. In my last post, we saw that our wills are bound and not free. They are bound to tilt at God in an effort to establish our own deity and mastery over our domain. This works itself out in relational dysfunction and self-defeat as layered and complex as human psychology itself. You know it is true because this is what wakes you up at 3 o’clock in the morning.
But God does not wait for the embedded kinks and taint to be kicked out before loving the sinner and providing for her justification. God understands your bondage and self-destruction. And the love light is unfettered. This is an insight that does not need to delude itself or force compartmentalization. “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” For all of us zombies.