By nature, God created his people to yearn for community. When we hurt, we long to find comfort in others. When we’re joyful, we can’t wait to share the source of our joy with the people around us. We see examples throughout scripture of God’s creation finding joy in the presence of others:
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)
And again, Paul reminds us in Romans:
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5, ESV)
Apart from an individual’s time spent daily in the Word of God, I’m convinced that Christian community is the most important facet of our growth and development as Christians. Community brings accountability, community brings mutual joy, and community brings encouragement. But without vulnerability in those settings, we sell ourselves short of the true reward that God has promised to give us “when two or three are gathered.”
The Fear of Vulnerability
Being open is hard. We all have flaws, but there’s a reason that Paul claimed to be the “foremost” sinner – it’s because we only know the true extent of our own sin. I’m terrified of being honest about my struggles. I’m scared of losing my ministry, I’m scared of being viewed differently, I’m scared of showing a side of myself that nobody else has ever seen. As a human, I’m inherently prideful. As a man, that flaw is only magnified. If I talk about my shortcomings, will people question my leadership? If I’m honest about the failures I face on a daily basis, will I still be invited to “come as I am?” How can I lead others in worship, how can I pour into younger guys, how can I set an example for the people around me if they know how deeply flawed I really am?
I’ve wrestled with this a lot lately. I’ve found myself in a church community that I truly feel at home in for the first time since my high school days, and while I’m enormously thankful for that blessing, the flip side of the coin brings the issue of vulnerability back to light. You see, when we’re just “coasting” through our church community, never trying to be intentional or open with the people around us, it’s easy to ignore the urging that God gives us to be honest about our weaknesses. Without a culture of acceptance and intentionality among believers, we can go on indefinitely without ever admitting our issues. Stepping back into that routine is frightening, but it’s clear that’s what God calls us to do regardless of our hesitance.
Creating a Culture of Transparency
Perhaps the most effective lie that Satan tells Christians pertaining to this issue is that we’ll somehow be cast aside by our brothers and sisters if we were ever to embrace our vulnerability and bring our sin into the light of God’s grace. “Your sin is worse than the rest,” he’ll say. “How could anyone possibly love you if they knew that’s what you’ve done?” We become flooded with the fear of rejection, but what we fail to realize is that our willingness to be open does more than just provide us with a source of accountability; it creates a culture of transparency that encourages others to follow in the same footsteps. If I’m willing to show that I will not be held captive by my sins, perhaps someone else in the congregation, in my life group, in my worship team will find the same boldness and allow Christ to throw off his or her shackles as well. See, we can’t step forward as Christians by our own power; we’re simply incapable. But God’s power is made perfect when we can finally come to that realization. Listen to Paul’s thoughts on the subject, a passage I’ve shared a few other times on this blog:
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (2 Corinthains 12:7-10, MSG)
God doesn’t expect us to hold it all together. In fact, he encourages us to do nearly the opposite and admit that we couldn’t possibly navigate our lives on this side of heaven without his help. But the fact is that many church communities haven’t modeled that behavior, and it’s facilitated a cycle of privacy and fear that Satan feeds off of. It’s hard to be open, especially in a culture that may not have seen such extensive honesty before. But there’s beauty in making the fighting of sin a team effort, and there’s great restoration when we can come alongside each other in such a special and unique way.
Though the first step in transparency is to admit shortcomings, the next part of the road is perhaps the most rewarding. The church receives the beautiful privilege of coming alongside its members, providing the accountability and support that can conquer sin in Jesus’ name. When one person chooses to step forward in faith, it shows the rest of the church that they, too, will be loved and accepted regardless of what they’re struggling with. Taking that first step can ignite a revolution in our local church bodies, but in order to get over that hump we first have to be willing to face our fear of rejection. It’s a hard choice to make, but it’s one that we’re called to.
Have any insight on this post? Let me know in the comment section below.