Atticus Finch Was Never Going to Save Us

Lori 2016Atticus Finch is a complex and deeply flawed character.

Countless reviewers reached this conclusion upon the release of Harper Lee’s prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Mockingbird presented an “idealized” Atticus but Lee’s first manuscript reveals him to have uncomfortable faults. So, there is debate.

Atticus is a great character for these times because we’re obsessed with judging each other’s lives, especially anyone who rises to “hero” status. This is a complicated task in an age where public figures don’t keep their secrets for long and leave their followers to sort the exemplary from the horrific.

It’s not easy, is it? Weighing a person’s life.

Our lives groan with conflict. Our world is rife with complex and deeply flawed characters. Comics who make us laugh but who cannot survive this world without shooting up or anesthetizing themselves with alcohol or sex. War heroes who shrink back down to size off the battlefield. Politicians who glitter in the limelight but fade when the applause dies. Pastors who preach fire and light on Sunday but commit adultery in the shadows on Thursday. Loved ones who show one face to the world and another at home.

It’s not easy, weighing a person’s life, but that’s because we aren’t designed to do the weighing. It’s a task way above our pay grade.

It’s the day of disillusion but I can’t help but believe this is somehow good.

Illusions are deceptive, false notions. They are the work of darkness no matter how lovely. To be disillusioned is to be free of deception. It’s gotten a bad rap only because we’re so in love with lies this side of glory. We think we need them to survive but we don’t.

The truth is that we are all complex and deeply flawed characters.

This leads to despair if we believe humans are our only hope. We can drown in the distressing waves of the failings of our heroes and our loved ones or we can look to Jesus for a hand up to steady ground. With Jesus, we can even walk on this rough water. Every time we hear of another flawed person, we can say, “So again we learn, God’s Word is true. There is none righteous, no not one.

Every time the curtain is pulled back on someone we were tempted to worship, we can say, “Ah, so God’s Word is right when it says we cannot save ourselves. Salvation is found in only One name, the name of Jesus.

Whenever a loved one disappoints, we can turn to Jesus and say, “Teach me how you do it. How do you forgive seven times seventy? How are you patient with me? How do you love when we are so unlovely? Show me more of You and help me be like You toward this flawed loved one as You are that way with me.”

Step by step we’ll learn that we can live without lies. We can love imperfect people. We can forgive repeatedly. We can face horrible truths without being destroyed. We can walk on this water because our eyes are on Jesus.

Jesus knew us better than we knew ourselves. He walked this earth in constant light – a light where no illusions lived. When He died for us, He knew that He was dying for complex and deeply flawed characters.

I want to be like Jesus. He knew everything that lived in our hearts and He loved us still. He ate with us. Attended our banquets and our weddings. Cried over us. Slept beside us. Prayed for us. Served us. Laid down His life for us. With no illusion that He was communing with perfect beings. Jesus lived light in a dark world.

Atticus Finch was never going to save us. Not really. So we can face his faults without fear. Much as we try to run from the light, even our fictional characters compel us to tell the truth. Only Jesus saves but that’s all right because He saves completely. He is all we need.

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  1. Lori, We would love to see your great articles on Please join and share with our Christian Social Network.

  2. I love this, Lori! You are so right – we are all deeply flawed. Jesus came and died to heal every flaw. Through His resurrection power, He recreates us. He is all we need.