Finding Grace on Oprah

Lance Armstrong’s appearance on Oprah this week seems destined to become another tell-all television event with viewers riveted to the screen waiting for the repentant cyclist to confess, or maybe not. Before Oprah, Barbara Walters was the undisputed queen of heart-to-heart television, and numerous guests used her forum for their confession. Some aired their not so clean laundry on the Jay Leno show, while former president Richard Nixon did his own version of apology to British television host David Frost. Today the ‘Church of Oprah’ has cornered the market on celebrity confessions. No matter what seedy scandal or fraud has occurred, if you are a celebrity and tell Oprah all about it, you have a good chance of a new start.

What makes these shows popular is that all of us have failures, flaws, maybe even scandals. As we watch others confess, find grace, and a new beginning, we live vicariously through them. 

At the time of writing, it’s not yet clear if Lance Armstrong will tell it all, tell some, or tell almost nothing. The only certainty is that OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network, will have a peek in viewership.

Talking about redemption, shouldn’t church be the place to find it?

Jesus was known as the friend of sinners. While the religious elite shunned him and eventually killed him, the Biblical record is clear that common people gladly heard him. The Amplified version of the Bible really drives the message home; “Now the tax collectors and notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering and indignantly complaining, saying; ‘this man accepts and receives and welcomes pre-eminently wicked sinners.’”

With that kind of a crowd –pre-eminently wicked sinners – there would have been much need for new beginnings. It seems the crowd that used to run to Jesus gets on Oprah today.


Jesus frequently denounced the self-righteous attitudes of religious people, while his arms remained wide open to sinners, prostitutes, tax-collectors, even to the thief on the cross.

Last year Miss Winfrey stated “I have a dream of OJ Simpson confessing to me, and I’m going to make that happen”. If this confession was to occur, it would have to be because Mr. Simpson feels he needs to get something off his chest.

And getting things off our chest, has everything to do with two powerful human emotions – guilt and shame. Those two conditions attached themself to the first human, Adam, as described in the book of Genesis. When he, by his own choice, disconnected from God who loved him unconditionally, guilt and shame ensued. God never turned his back on Adam, in fact God kept reaching. Still Adam, overwhelmed by his own shame, tried to re-invent new ways to deal with his guilt ridden conscience. That has been the self-induced plight of humans ever since. The Genesis record tells us that Adam and Eve dealt with their shame of nakedness by using fig leaves for cover. Religion, good works, or even the approval of Oprah can give the penitent sinner at least a fig leaf of temporary relief.

Church was supposed to be the place where anyone could find hope for tomorrow and God’s grace to take you there. After all the church was established by him who is referred to as having a throne of grace where we can boldly come to obtain mercy and help in time of need. From Alex Rodrigues, Bill Clinton, to Hugh Grant and Tiger Woods, and every one of the rest of us – we need redemption. You can get it, by going straight to God through Jesus.  If everyone`s arms are closed to you – God`s are wide open.

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