January 16, 2021

The Rose

Courtesy of Trevin Wax, but from a sermon by the inimitably wonderful Matt Chandler:

Pastor Matt Chandler gave this illustration during his sermon at a recent Desiring God conference. I think this illustration powerfully communicates the difference between moralism and the Christian gospel.

During my freshman year of college, I sat next to a 26-year-old single mother trying to get her degree. We began a dialogue about the grace and mercy of Christ in the cross. Some other guys and I would go over and babysit her child and try to talk with her. A friend of mine was in a band playing in the area and we invited her to hear him. She agreed. She thought it would be a concert. I knew better. It was shady and she agreed to come.

The minister got up and said, “Today I want to talk to you about sex.” And I immediately thought, Uh oh. He took a red rose, smelled it, showed how pretty it was. Then, threw it out in the crowd and told them to smell the rose. “I want you to smell it and touch it and feel the texture in it.” (There were about 1000 people there.) He then began one of the worst, most horrific handlings of what sex is and isn’t that I ever sat through. It was fear-mongering at its best.

I’m thinking, with Kim beside me, What are you doing? As he wrapped up, he asked, “Where’s my rose?”

Some kid brought the rose back and it was broken. The petals were broken. And he lifts it up. And his big crescendo is to lift up that broken rose and say, “Now who would want this?”

Anger welled up within me and I wanted to say, “JESUS WANTS THE ROSE! That’s the point of the gospel! That Jesus wants the rose. That he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

In my classes, when you get it right- just right- I say “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About!”

That’s what he’s talkin’ about.

Chandler’s podcasted sermons will do you a world of good. Catholics: I bought your gear, you can have Chandler for free. Don’t miss him 🙂


  1. Take a look at this monologue by a modern-day woman at the well:

  2. Jesus wants the rose. How true. And we aren’t even roses – we aren’t even broken roses.


  3. That’s beautiful… There’s times when I think that, at the end of the age, only the wicked will be able to accept the Good News. And the “good” will be plenty pissed off.

  4. And that is why it is amazing grace. Amen Michael.

  5. Wow. What an awful thing for that minister to do. I do understand what he was trying to communicate. I’m sure I heard illustrations like that when I was a teenager. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how teach my children both truths – that God does desire purity and that He forgives sin and always loves.

    Yes indeed, Jesus wants the roses – even the one that isn’t bruised and broken is still dying. And Jesus loves them all.

  6. What’s with ministers harboring such hatred and ambivalence about feminine sexuality like that?

    “Who would want this?” is a pretty damning judgment to make about the value of another human being, and about as far from “neither do I condemn you” (John 8:1-11) as you can get.

    I was thinking about that verse today – one thing we often forget is that the gathered religious people weren’t just ‘throwing stones’ in the sense we use it today. They weren’t assaulting her character when Jesus stepped in – they were TRYING TO MURDER HER.

    Next time you feel contempt for a person, for their sin or their personality, own that feeling of how you want to rub them out in the dirt for being so disgusting or different or ‘average’ – remember the religion Jesus saved you from: the one where you’d feel righteous being able to take the feeling out into the street with you and kill somebody.

    The disrespect that this preacher has in his heart for women is nurturing a chaotic, killing impulse – Jesus himself said so.

    Not that I care.

    I’m fairly convinced these days that I’m not really a Christian. I’m just a guy who’s into Christianity – I like religious idioms and old books and history and contemplative stuff, but there’s nothing about me today that’s different from any Jew with his stones and his umbrage.

    Yesterday I saw a struggling skink and thought about stepping on him, because he was whipping himself back and forth and couldn’t seem to walk straight. I checked the thought and scooted him off the stairs, feeling weird and dirty. Why are we so quick to want broken things to die?

    The more I look at Christianity in general, the more convinced I am that most of Christianity is just like me, like we’ve been taught the Gospel but haven’t been loved with it. When Jesus said we were dead inside without him, it makes sense – but in the Christianity I’m a part of, nothing else makes sense.

  7. Radagast says

    My wife was for a time involved in a ministry called Rachel’s Vineyard which ministered to women who, in their course of their life had an abortion and were struggling to come to terms with that decision. These women who, at a weak point in their life, or confused, or following a particular outlook made a decision that affected the rest of their life, leaving them in emotional and psychological pain and not able to forgive themselves.

    A number of these women struggled with keeping this secret, and this particular blog reminded me of them, many who only later understood the ramifications of that decision, but could not move past it, and could never reveal this to anyone lest they be thought of as the minister above portrayed, unlovable, untouchable, unforgivable, damaged.

  8. Bob Brague says

    I’m sure that minister would be horrified to read this blog. We’re all like that, though. Many times when we think we are teaching one lesson, we are really teaching another one entirely.

    God help us. God forgive us.

  9. The problem with this illustration is that it is far too common to hear similar sermons without the “aha” provided in the “Jesus would” statement. 1000’s of numbed Christians are subjected to weekly doses of Christless worship. Or, even worse, are given the “aha” here and are quickly puffed up by the fact that they aren’t like the jack ass that delivered the original sermon.

    I agree with Mr. Brague. God help us and God forgive us.

  10. Yes, I believe the church, in many cases, has lost the true message of Christ, which is a message of grace. This is a quintessential illustration of ungrace.

    What’s funny is that just after salvation, people tend to be the most graceful, but their grace lessens in time.

    The point is grace. That’s the whole point of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I thank Phillip Yancey, and his popular book, “What’s so Amazing About Grace?” for helping me realize that.

    Love your blog by the way, I will be adding it to my blogroll.

  11. reminds me of a song by buddy and julie miller called broken things:


  12. From the original post by Mr. Chandler:

    “Despite the fact that my heart had always burned for the prodigal, God sent me to the older brother.”


    How often we forget that in this parable, the father had lost both of his sons, and how he yearned for the both of them.

  13. I remember any number of those analogies in abstinence-only (arguably secular) classes. I was disgusted with them, though it took years to articulate exactly why.

    I’m glad there’s a religious reason to oppose this as well.

  14. I’m curious if the “friend” he swindled into going to this sermon ever spoke to him again.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’m curious if the “friend” he swindled into going to this sermon ever spoke to him again.

    If she didn’t punch his lights out.

  16. I leave near Highland Village and make the 40 minute drive to ‘The Village’ on occassion. I was there when Matt originally gave this example, and yes, she did speak to him again. I’m trying to remember the specifics, but I recall she got into an accident and was in the hospital soon after this concert. When Matt went to visit her they chatted for a while, and then she eventually asked him, “Am I just a broken rose? Is that how you see me?”.

    Matt said there were lots of tears and long conversations following that, which eventually cleared the air and lead to their friendship being restored.

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