We’ve all heard this phrase applied to people who have experienced the rough stuff of life – broken or unhealthy relationships, addictions, abuse or devastating losses. We say they are damaged goods. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this expressions used even of Christians, who have taken some blows from life that have impacted them in various ways. In fact, I confess to feeling that way myself at times.
I question if its a phrase we really should be applying to Christians. On one hand, we do want to be honest about stuff that has impacted us. We don’t want to be divorced from our humanity. When life hurts, we should be able to say ‘ouch’. And when the hurt lingers, we should be open about it and the consequences of that impact. As devastating as life can be for some, I think it is equally devastating to pretend that our humanity is not impacted when it gets harmed.
So there are events that have impacted some so deeply that it changes them. It might change their perspective. It may add a layer of grief that wouldn’t be there. It might make them more prone to despair or depression. It might produce unreasonable cautions where they need not exist. It might, it might….the list goes on. This is reality.
There are a couple of reasons why I think we should not refer to Christians as damaged goods.
1) Identity: We do have one in Christ. Those he has redeemed are new creations in him even with devastation that occurred in our Christianity. We may hurt and have changed perspective, but that still does not take away our wholeness in Christ. To say we’re damaged goods kind of undermines who we are in Christ, but more importantly who he is and what he has done for us.
In some sense, we all are damaged goods because we’ve all experienced the consequences of the fall. Sure this has played out more pronounce for some than others. But in Christ, we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. We are his beloved and accepted because of what he did.
2) Purpose: Something that is a damaged good really has no usefulness. But that is not the story I see in Scripture. In fact, God specialized in those we would call damaged goods. Think about the Samaritan woman in John 4. She had 5 previous husbands and shacking up with some other dude. She has been around the block and so shamed by her circumstances that she had to go to the well at a time separate from the other town ladies. Scripture doesn’t say but I can imagine the chatter about her. Yet, when she encountered the living Son of God, her brokenness didn’t matter.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” The glory of God shines through ordinary vessels, cracked pots – things that don’t look like they should amount to anything. That describes a damaged good. The reason the power of God can shine through is because in and of itself, it doesn’t appear that it can produce anything useful. But it does when the Lord is involved.
Brokenness from life has a way of producing wisdom that would probably not be there. In fact, its been my experience that those who have escaped the ravages of life that would earn them this dubious title of damaged goods, tend to be rather shallow in their advice and perspective. Now I’m not advocating that everyone should experience life changing grief or loss. But the reality is when you’ve been impacted by the rough stuff of life, you tend to see things differently.
God uses this for his glory. He uses it with ministry to others, so those that have been comforted in their various affliction can wisely comfort others. I’m sorry, but I don’t see that as damaged. I consider that redemptive. And that is what our Lord specializes in – redemption.
So I don’t know. I don’t want to dismiss the reality of damage of life. But I think it’s quite another thing when we assume an identity that can have little to no redemptive value.