Let’s Be Honest With Ourselves

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

life togetherThere is a natural tendency we all have of putting up walls or putting on masks. For various reasons, we are not comfortable with others knowing the truth about who we are and what we struggle with. And yet we know that scripture calls us into community. Christianity is in no way a Lone Ranger type of spirituality. Rather, in His wisdom and grace, the Lord has brought each of us into a particular church family and wants us to be honest with and about ourselves. The question is, why do so many of us deal with loneliness and isolation?

In his classic work Life Together, Dieterich Bonhoeffer puts forward the following argument…

“He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.  It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness.  The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.  The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  We dare not be sinners.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous.  So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy.  The fact is that we are sinners! But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you.”

In the same way, while answering the question of what it is that enables us to do this, to pursue authenticity with others, Bob Thune explains…

It’s the gospel. It’s faith working through love. It’s “the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin.” Only when we’ve really come to Jesus in repentance and faith will we experience the kind of honest community we long for. Because only in Jesus is our struggle for righteousness and identity resolved.

Pause and ask yourself another question: What’s the worst thing someone could possibly know about you?

Now, what if everyone in your church community knew that thing? What would you stand to lose? What you’d probably lose is (1) their approval and (2) your sense of righteousness. They would know the real truth about you (and perhaps not approve of you). And you would have to admit the truth about yourself (you couldn’t pretend to be “righteous” anymore). In other words: walking in the light would directly confront your thirst for approval and your unwarranted self-righteousness. You avoid honesty because you’re still striving to maintain your own identity and construct your own righteousness.

Here’s another way to say the same thing: Dishonesty is rooted in unbelief. It’s a gospel issue. When I’m not resting in the identity and righteousness I have in Christ, I’ll be tempted to “save face” or keep up appearances. I’ll want to make sure people have a certain impression of me.

But the gospel frees us from this temptation! The good news of the gospel is that your identity is in Christ, not in what people think of you. And your righteousness comes from Christ, not your good behavior (or good reputation). You don’t have to keep up appearances. You don’t have to manage your image. You don’t have to save face. Jesus gives you a new identity and a righteousness you did not possess or earn on your own. They are yours by grace. You can rest in the identity and righteousness that Jesus provides. And so you can freely walk in the light with the people around you. You no longer need to sew together fig leaves; God himself has clothed you in the righteousness of his Son. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

A community where the truth of the gospel is deeply believed, reflected on, and talked about will be a community of healthy, transformative honesty. It will be a community where people increasingly find their identity in Christ and not in the approval of others; a community where self-righteousness gives way to faith-righteousness; a community where people are loved as they really are, but loved too much to let them stay that way. It will be a community of radical grace, generous hospitality, and joyful humility. It will be a community of light, truth, goodness and beauty, where the glory of God is on display to the world.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)

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