Even for those who try and avoid celebrity gossip, the recent Miley Cyrus debacle was hard to ignore. I couldn’t look at Facebook the following day without seeing half a dozen posts about it. The Internet media had a feeding frenzy. The general public learned what the word “twerk” means. Parents and youth pastors everywhere decried the event and mourned the moral decline of our country, which is apparently “headed to hell in a hand basket.” And thankfully, my buddy Chris was telling people that “Jesus loves Miley Cyrus,” too.

So by Monday night, I figured I had to check it out. As my wife and I talked about our friends’ Facebook posts, she pulled up images from the VMA’s. At first we laughed at the absurdity.

“Well, this is the least surprising news of all time,” I said, considering the endless string of messed-up child stars that litter the tabloids, “She’ll be coked-out and checked into rehab inside six months, guaranteed!”

But as we investigated the pictures and the press coverage, I grew more disgusted. Truth be told, she kind of looked like a flat-chested thirteen year old in a toddler’s bathing suit pretending to have sex with a middle-aged Beetlejuice. The whole scene was a little nauseating. But then it hit me, and I got really sad.

Sunday, August 25th was the worst day of Billy Ray Cyrus’ life.

I imagine him dropping his can of Bud Light as his daughter took the stage. “Please…no…dear God, what is she thinking?” I imagine he winced with every sexually-explicit gyration his daughter made in front of the millions of TV viewers. I imagine at some point, he just had to look away. And I bet his self-esteem as a father dropped like a lead balloon.

See, I’ve got a daughter. She’s almost two. She’s pretty and sweet and sort of cheeky and is the most adorable little person in the world to me. She likes “kitty cats” and squints when she smiles and has somehow learned to carry a purse, a baby, and one of her stuffed animals all at the same time. And when she walks, she shakes her hips so much that I’m afraid she might throw her back out. Come to think of it, she’s probably a lot like Miley Cyrus was when she was two years old.

As much I want to judge Miley (and Robin Thicke), I can’t shake the idea that she’s some dad’s little girl. I can’t shake the haunting fact that, vile as the scene may have been, Miley is a beautiful creature in the eyes of God. I’m convinced that on Sunday August 25th, God’s heart was broken even more than Billy Ray Cyrus’. (Insert bad “Achey Breakey Heart” pun here.)

Miley’s performance was cringe-worthy to watch for anyone, no doubt. But consider it from God’s perspective. God doesn’t watch the MTV performance and think “skank,” “whore,” or “slut.” He looks at her as a screwed-up daughter and He has pity on her.

We sometimes forget that the gospel of grace begins with a compassionate Father, heartbroken over the way His children have screwed up their lives. So heartbroken that He was willing to let His son be murdered to un-screw us up. (See John 3:16-17.)

It’s laughable how quickly I can forget God’s compassion. I get so wrapped up in my own little world of work and family and church and night classes and Facebook and reruns of “The Office” that I just forget. I forget that when Jesus looked at the crowds of people his feeling was compassion, not judgement or disgust (John 14:14.) I forget that I’m a child of God who flipped Him the bird and broke His heart. I forget that if some of my private thoughts were made public, I’d make Miley Cyrus look like a choir boy.

I forget these things and I start to act a lot like the people who murdered Jesus, judging and criticizing and being disgusted with “sinners.” I start getting really high on myself and throwing those “sinners” under the bus. I start to get this ridiculous idea that my salvation started with me and how awesome I am. I start to feel like I must be really impressing God.

When I lose sight of God’s compassion, I forget that Jesus’ “target audience” is sinners. I forget that Jesus isn’t looking for people who feel like they have it together. He came to call and redeem the prostitutes, the cheaters, the swindlers, the thieves, the murderers, the gay pride reps, the pornographers, the potheads, the alcoholics, the road ragers, and even the skanky dancers.

May we never forget the depths of our depravity. May we never forget that deep down we’re just as broken and screwed-up as Miley Cyrus or Robin Thicke. May we never, ever forget the compassion of the Father who sent Jesus to fix our brokenness.

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