Messages from Young Adults

Let’s Be Honest…

Honesty. I’ve pretty much found out that it’s the scariest thing in the world. But the few times I’ve actually dabbled in this dark art, My God, it’s wonderful. I just finished reading a book given to me by one of my roommates called The Kingdom of Couches by Will Walker. Mostly it’s a great book about the need for Christian community in our individualistic and independent society, and I’m likely to draw much from it in the future. As such, I confess that a great portion of the ideas following come from Mr. Walker and some of his coauthors (Brett Westervelt, in particular), but I’m sure they’ve been said throughout the ages, merely because of the state of the human condition.

What I have drawn recently from this book, however, and what has been hitting me from all sides—from random conversations to the very sermon I heard this morning—was the need for honesty, for truth. Now, I’m not one that easily falls into divine speculations, but I think that the message getting to me in the past few weeks has not been one of a coincidence of many sources, but rather God trying to communicate to my petrified heart.

Consider conversation. Think about how you talk, what you talk about, why you talk. If you’re like me, an extreme extrovert, you might talk a lot (or way too much, in my case). We are constantly using our words for self-edification: I’m smart, listen to my words; I’m compassionate, listen to my words; I’m funny, listen to my words; I’m righteous, listen to my words. We try to show off our knowledge with our words, and that puffs us up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Walker calls it “temporary redemption,” because we find in our words security and worth and righteousness: we have no need for a saving God when we’re doing quite well on our own. I must admit that part of me while writing this wants to spread these powerful insights that God has granted me, but there’s always that part that is writing this so I can puff myself up. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking to myself, “Man, I’m gonna write this awesome post, and people are going to think I’m so humble, and introspective, and insightful.” I don’t want to think this way, but I’ve been doing it so long, that I don’t know how not to.

But in our conversation—aside from the fact that we constantly try to edify ourselves and often ignore the need to listen and edify others—we generally keep pretty honest. Unless, of course, honesty is inconvenient. When we start talking about serious things, about personal things, then our words are more guarded. When honesty makes you look bad because you’re a flawed person, when honesty might hurt somebody else because it’s the brutal truth, when honesty reveals truly deep down who you are, then honesty is often not something we’re excited about. We start beating around the bush, talking in generalities.

The truth is, we’re always projecting the personality that we want people to see. We wear masks and use our words to convince people we’re the funny one, the cheerful one, the sensitive one…the Christian one. And when, in our mind, we’re not funny, we’re not happy, we’re not sympathizing, and we’re not how a Christian “should” be, we lie, deceive, or, at the very least, keep our mouth shut. What’s worse, we even rationalize our way out of truly expressing ourselves because we want to be a “good example” of Christ to others. Unfortunately, the problem with not letting others see our bad and broken side is that it’s simply dishonest. As Walker put it, “If the bride of Christ is ugly, that doesn’t make her a ‘non-bride;’ but if the bride of Christ is a blow-up doll, we need a reality check.”

Reality. The problem is with me is that I’ve been so mired in my deceptions and self-deceptions that I’ve forgotten how to be honest. I’ve lost that child-like disposition of saying exactly what’s on my mind; there’s always some ulterior motive. I want to honestly sing with my Church “I Surrender All,” but even if I tried surrendering all, I’m pretty sure I’ve deceiving myself in some way where I’m holding something—probably many things—back. I want to sing with my college buddies “You are more than enough for me,” but I know that, truly, I measure my satisfaction not only by my relationship with God but by my happiness, my success, and others’ approval of me; clearly, God is not more than enough. I’ve forgotten what reality is, and I think I’m afraid to remember. As Walker humorously recalls, “My friend David says, ‘Reality is your friend.’ My other friend Jeremy says, ‘And sometimes your friend is ugly.’”

Occasionally, we’re honest with God. A good amount of time, we even try deceiving Him, but I think we are often most honest when we’re speaking to the ceiling. While that confession is good, it’s not enough. It’s interesting to note that when the Bible talks about and exhorts us to confession, it’s almost never in the context of alone to God, but almost always in the context of community. And that is something we’ve lost as a Church, or at least something I have only rarely experienced. Sure, we admit all the time to each other that we’re sinners. “Yup, we’re all sinners. Oh, and I’ve got this sin I’m struggling with, please pray for me. What sin? Oh well, you don’t need to know that. That’s between me and God, and I’m pretty sure us two can work it out, you don’t need to get involved, I don’t need your help.” The Church all of a sudden has turned into a group of independent individuals and not an interdependent community of honest and open believers. We dare not mention our deepest sinful motivations, our darkest sins, or our most trying struggles and questions to our community, our Church. Maybe God and one or two “accountability partners,” but Heaven forbid people in our community actually know us.

We need confession. We need to be known, because that is the way God intended the Church. We need to be open, vulnerable, and honest; we need to trust God’s people and not fear that we appear weak and broken, for that is what we actually are. We need to move beyond valuing ourselves on how we appear to others, and get to a place where all we’ve got to cling to, all we have left in terms of self-worth, is that God loves us. Derek Webb once speculated that the best thing that could happen to you is if your sin was broadcasted on the evening news. Imagine that, that everyone knew your sin, and knew truly what kind of person you are. What would you have left in terms of pride? What could you say now to justify yourself? All you would have left is the fact that you are valued by God, and you would truly realize that God is the one who justifies you, not your words. I’m not saying we should go announce our sin on the news. But we must begin to move to a place where we’re real, and we’re open and honest about our concerns and struggles.

I voiced all these things to an informal prayer and praise meeting on campus Monday night. People nodded their head in agreement, some made comments. Then stupid Ben had to go do what I feared the most after giving such beautiful insight: doing it. He told us to all split up between guys and girls, and confess. This wasn’t planned, he just heard what I said, then put it into action. I nervously got up and sat in circle of seven guys, quickly surveying them to see to whom I was about to spill out all of my nastiness. And we sat there. Finally, after about 20 seconds of chill, James broke the ice. For the next three hours, we sat there quietly, but openly, confessing all the junk that’s been going on in our lives, exhorting each other, empathizing with each other, and suggesting how we could get over these times of sin. We all had a bunch of things to do, we had people calling us on our phones, but all of that became unimportant compared to what we were engaging in. After a while, we had all spoken. Everyone but one. And so Ben finally asked him to speak, and he began to admit that he didn’t want to, that he was having some serious doubts, and that he’s been angry with God, and angry with his Christian friends. He felt unsure about God’s love. I don’t want to go into detail, but I strongly empathized with him because of similar things I went through last semester. And in all these things—in his doubts and anger, in my own doubts and unbelief last semester, and in all our struggles and dirty, dirty sins that we had just spent confessing to each other—none of us knew that these things were going on in each other’s lives. We are all friends, all brothers in Christ supposed to be lifting each other up, and we were not because we were to afraid to trust each other, too afraid to look like we were…sinners. In realizing all of this, while some of us were speaking, Ben started to breathe very loudly. Looking to him, I saw he was rocking back and forth. He looked up, and I saw the tears in his eyes as he voiced in utter frustration, “How did we get this way?” How in the world did the Church—that is, the community of believers—get to the point where we’re all separated from each other in such a way that we’re not able to help each other in the hardest of times?

I’ll tell you, Ben. We stopped being honest. We stopped valuing the Church for what it is. And that night was my first night of honesty in a long time. So this rather extended post is about honesty. It’s about injecting it—no—making it the foundation of your daily conversation. It’s about having a community of believers who you are completely open with. It’s time to take off that mask. It’s time to let go and trust God, and trust the Church that He has established. Find your community, the Church, and let go of all your pride; confess and be broken. Stop the self-deception, the deception of God, and the deception of the Church. It’s scary, I know, but just do it. Say it. Dive in.


Tagged as: , , ,

Comments

  • Herb Douglass said:

    I am dazzled with such transparent honesty in the attempt to speak for honesty. I treasured each sentence. Nothing is worse than an empty-suit Pharisee. Or a stuffed-doll Sadducee. That’s just about where most are today, some call themselves conservatives and others, liberals (progressives). But when we really attempt to be honest, we can recognize the best in what conservatives treasure, and the best in what liberals (progressives) will fight for. I dream of that day, and it can be real soon, when we all can step up and over our manufactured fences–and have real, honest conversation and common devotion to our infinitely honest Lord.

  • Divya said:

    You hit the nail right on! wow. This post has made me both smile and cry……. it’s amazing how simple the whole process of honesty is, and yet how complex we make it when we begin to hide “secrets” to preserve the BIG lie – our deepest fear.

    As one counselor put it, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”
    Well, if secrets make us “sick” then we must be a very, very, very, very SICK Church! About time we let the Healer into our lives, and into our church!

    (Quoting Herb Douglass) Ah! For that day “when we all can step up and over our manufactured fences – and have real, honest conversation and common devotion to our infinitely honest Lord.”
    Such an inspiring post.

  • asimplesinner said:

    How generally as an Adventist do you interpret Christ’s command in John 20:21-23 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”?

    How do you understand what Christ empowered them to do or what He meant by “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld”?

  • ricemithun said:

    asimplesinner,

    Reading this passage, and its context, its difficult for me to understand, as I’m sure it is for you. On the one hand, I am confident that the remission of sins comes from God alone. On the other, this passage seems to, on the surface, imply that Jesus and the Spirit gives us the authority to forgive sins. Let me be truthful that I am not wise at all in these theological matters, and that most of what I have found is research in other commentaries on this passage.

    First, let us not forget that in addition to this passage, Jesus commands us to forgive a virtually unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:22). Given that, there will be no time in which, if we are in the Spirit like the disciples were, we would ever “withhold forgiveness” to a repentant sinner. Since neither would the Lord, in His boundless grace, it seems a moot point to consider the possibility that we could prevent a penitent sinner’s sins to be forgiven, even if we had the ‘power’ to do so.

    Given that, why would Jesus say this. Note that this phrase is given in the context of, in John’s version, the Great Commission: Jesus sending us to preach the Gospel. So far, the best understanding I have of this passage, then, is that the forgiveness that is being given or withheld is the Gospel itself. When we preach the Gospel, we offer the salvation and forgivenss of sins it holds; when we don’t, we withhold that opportunity to people (Romans 10:14). Thus, in line with the commission, this statement is more of declaration of our duty of love to our fellow man, rather than one of giving us divine power.

  • Paintown said:

    Mit Manhani!

    Great truth, brother. And I rejoice that we are putting into practice the tenets that build a more open and honest community here at Rice. I pray that this discipline of community and confession does not leave you as you move on to bigger and better things. You are a treasured friend and I thank God for your wisdom and passion for this truth.

    -P

  • asimplesinner said:

    I am confident that the remission of sins comes from God alone, too.

    Where we likely differ is HOW it comes from God.

    Moving past what it seems to imply, all things being equal, why not go with the more literal understanding in this passage?

  • ricemithun said:

    The literal understand of the passage, I believe, would be that Jesus has given the power of the remittance of sins, or withholding that, to the Church. I note specifically to the Church, because of the plural number of the Greek verbs (here in Texas, we would say “if y’all forgive the sins…” instead of the ambiguous English “you”).

    Does this mean that our sins are forgiven solely through the medium of the Church? I think not, and the passage does not say this. Paul tells the leaders of Ephesus that he has preached to people to “turn to God in repentance,” (Acts 20:21) and this is whom, I believe, we must first turn, and He will hear our cry and “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9) even if no other man hears.

    That said, this passage brings up a point I was trying to make, and am continually exploring in my daily life. The Church, as the body of believers, is there to deal with sin as well. Jesus, before this passage, talks about the Church confronting erring members, both one-on-one, and corporately (Matthew 18:1-35). The Church is also there to aid in God’s healing process of sin. We are in need of confession to each other, and this confession can made to any firm believer, for we are all in God’s priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We are exhorted to confess to and pray for one another (James 5:16). But if we can obtain forgiveness from God, why the need for confession to the Church? Let me offer at least one explanation I read from Richard Foster:

    “[There are times when] we have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness, and though we hope we have been forgiven we have sensed no release…The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed…Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith…[but] God has given us our brothers and sisters to stand in Christ’s stead and make God’s presence and forgiveness real to us.”

    Foster, and I myself, have found this to be oh so true. The Church is there as a physical and vocal reminder of the reality that is already in place: that we are forgiven and being made righteousness. Just this week I had one of my good friends confess to me a sin he’s told no one else before, and sin that has been weighing him for at least a year, maybe more, despite his confession to God. But when he told me, and I held him amidst his tears and assured him by the power of this very passage that he is forgiven, the reality of that forgiveness of God which had already happened but he was unable to experience. With his head on my breast, my hand on his head, and both of us in an embrace, I almost whispered to him the truth that if he wrote his sin down on paper, I would shred it and burn the remains, if he engraved it on the stone, I would throw it in the depths of the ocean, for I know that God has already done so. Need all sins go through this touching, but painful, experience to be forgiven? No, but some do, and that’s why God has made the Church. Praise God for the Church, a body of saints, yes, but a body of sinners first!

  • christoffering said:

    Mithun… you have spoken well.

    We don’t want a blow-up doll faith or church.

    The problem with honesty is that it affects our reputation, and that’s where we get our identity. And we may not like the person we actually are…

    The irony is, like what the apostle Paul says, if we are to boast at all, we should boast in our weaknesses.(2 Cor.11:30)

    Thanks for directing me to your blog… it’s a great compliment to the one you commented on at:

    http://ignitionblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/identity-theft/#comments

    May we seek to be real with God, with ourselves and
    with each other.

    And may we receive from God the identity and reputation
    that matters to Him.

Trackbacks

There are no trackbacks