What Does Johnny Cash, Dylann Roof, & Paul Have in Common? Hurt, Pain, Regrets, Forgiveness Lesson Wed Night June 24, 2015

Since we have so many new youth and thus new parents, I thought I’d add a quick note to begin this lesson recap: Keep in mind that this is meant more for an overview of the lesson to encourage discussion with your teen and not a transcript.  As always, we have an open door policy for all of our meetings and would love for you to be our guest at any time.  Wednesday night lessons are usually media heavy topical discussions vs. me preaching/them listening.  I’ll take a topic/popular song/movie/internet clip and things that they may be dealing with or have come to me with questions about and then contrast what the world says about it with what scripture says.

That being said…on to the lesson recap.

Our main discussion point: No matter what you’ve done, or who you’ve hurt, you can find redemption through Christ.

This was definitely one of those God things.  As I was coming off being out of the country and on “Airplane Mode” for 8 days, I really had no idea about the extent of the Charleston shootings or what had been going on in the lives of my students while gone.  I had originally thought about this lesson based on a conversation with a young man before I left for vacation.  It was a conversation based on regrets, hurts, and questions.  This young man stated that God couldn’t love him because he had done so many horrible things and hurt so many people.  Fast forward to me getting back into the “real” world after vacation and seeing what was going on in Charleston a week after the shootings.  Here was Dylann Roof, killer of nine people being offered forgiveness from those he caused unimaginable pain as well as a request to repent and ask for redemption and forgiveness through Christ.

So how do we tie it all together?  There is no shortage of people in music and entertainment that have followed a path of destruction that has lead to a wake of hurt, pain, and regret.  I already had the perfect song in mind with this topic and figured I’d introduce them to the music of Johnny Cash.  I went in Wednesday night and told some of my more music minded youth that I was going to be using Jonny Cash tonight and quickly realized that 75% of the 40+ teens in the room were either pre-teens or middle school.  This would be interesting they said. LOL.

…and here we go…

The video for Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt was filmed in February of 2003, only seven months before his death. It was filmed in the run down and closed House of Cash Museum in Nashville. It features Johnny Cash singing amidst imagery of decaying fruit and flowers, cut with a variety of clips of Cash in his early days, and a cameo from his late wife June Carter Cash.

Since Cash’s death, the video has become widely recognized as his “epitaph.” The video won a host of awards:

  • CMT’s video of the year (2003)
  • Grammy in 2004
  • #1 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Music Videos (2004)
  • Rolling Stone voted it 15th on its Best Songs of the Decade
  • Myspace rated it the 5th Most Influential Music Video of All Time
  • Time Magazine placed the video in their Top 30 Music Videos of All Time.

Before we watch the video though, you have to understand a little bit about Johnny Cash’s life. He was brought up in the Christian faith, and even started his career in music with the intention of singing Gospel music. As Cash began to gain popularity though, he began to slip into a destructive lifestyle. He became heavily involved in drug use, he slept around with countless women, he drank heavily, and he was arrested not once, not twice, but SEVEN times! His adultery and drug use was so bad that it caused his first wife to divorce him.

Cash eventually became so desperate that he actually attempted to kill himself in 1968; before he could succeed though, he said he suddenly felt God’s presence with Him. Shortly thereafter, Cash rediscovered the Christian faith and decided to give his life to Christ. Though, he would continue to struggle with drug use on and off throughout his life, His life was clearly different.

The song is entitled “Hurt” and was not actually written by Johnny Cash but by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.  Love, love, love this song.


I hurt myself today
to see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
the only thing that’s real
the needle tears a hole
the old familiar sting
try to kill it all away
but I remember everything

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar’s chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear
you are someone else
I am still right here

what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt

I will let you down
I will make you hurt

if I could start again
a million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

It becomes very clear as to what’s most important to a person by how they spend the closing chapters of their lives. It’s almost as if they understand they’ve only got a little while left and they know they need to make every second count. According to that song, Johnny Cash spent the closing years of his life reflecting on the hurt he’d caused himself and others. But he also knew how he would get through the self-inflicted damage: Jesus Christ.

This passage was written from Paul to Timothy. At the time this letter was written, Paul was most likely sitting in a Roman prison awaiting his execution. Paul had been arrested and thrown in prison for his faith in Christ. As he wrote this letter, he knew that he was about to die.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

What does Paul seem to think about his life as he looks back on it?

How is Paul’s attitude similar or different from Johnny Cash’s?

Do any of these verses remind you of anything we saw in the video? (In verse 6, Paul refers to his life as being like a drink offering. This verse is similar to the shot in the video where Cash pours out a glass of wine onto the table. A drink offering was wine that was poured out onto an altar as a sacrifice to God, i.e. Paul viewed his life as an offering to God.)

Do you think this means Paul didn’t have any regrets about things he had done in his life? (Paul spent his life as a persecutor of Christians before he knew Christ.  Acts 7:60, Acts 9:1-2.)

Given what we know about some of the horrible things Paul did, how is it he can seem so confident about how he lived his life? How can he say that he has “fought the good fight” and that God is going to reward him?

Let’s look at another passage written by Paul:

1 Timothy 1:12-16

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Here Paul describes himself before Christ as being a blasphemer, persecutor, violent man, ignorant, unbelieving, the worst of sinners. That’s pretty bad!  Which leads us into our illustration using a video clip from the preliminary hearing for Dylann Roof.

Paul could look back and be confident about his life and his eternal destiny because of the grace shown to him through Christ.  We are reminded in this clip that the same grace is available for Dylann Roof.  You are never too far gone for Christ no matter the level of hurt and pain you’ve caused others.

If we just read the first passage from Paul (about his confidence), without reading this second one (about his sin), we might be tempted to think of Paul as some spiritual superhero that we could never live up to. We might think he’s this guy who preached all the time and never did anything wrong. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Paul said he was “the worst of sinners.” Yet, he found grace and forgiveness through Christ.  Paul says, “Have you killed anyone? Have you tortured anyone, specifically because they believed in Jesus? Then you haven’t messed up worse than me, and still God showed me grace through the cross of Christ!”  Johnny Cash said he was a drug addict, an alcoholic, that he hurt himself, God, and everyone around him. Yet at the end we see clips of Christ being nailed to a cross for Johnny Cash. Jesus died to take the pain, the punishment, the “hurt” for his sins. And because Johnny Cash had faith in Christ, he found redemption.

The message is the same for us today. No matter how bad you think you’ve messed up, it isn’t out of reach of God’s healing work. A lot of times students will run from God because they think they have messed up so bad or they have made so many bad choices, that God could never forgive them. Just like the example of the young man I wrote about earlier.  Jesus was crucified on a cross for you. He died so that if you put your faith in Him, you can find redemption, healing, and forgiveness for all the hurt you’ve caused.

Make good choices.

Oh, and that young man…he recognized his need for Christ.  Robert Shaffer and myself were honored to pray with him as he prayed for salvation and a started a new life in Christ!

Lyrics: Writer(s): Trent Reznor
Copyright: Penny Farthing Music O.B.O. Arlovol Music

Excerpts: Brandon McCarroll