An Oddly Open Community

Personal privacy is held in highest regard in the West. Sure, people may appear to share every detail of their life on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but that’s not really the case. Those details are only part of the story, right? We’re not too quick to post on our timeline: “I just refused to buy a meal for a homeless man because I would’ve missed the start of the bowl game.” Why not? Because we want to give the appearance that we have it all together. At the very least, we want everyone to know that the bad in our life is caused by someone else. It’s not our fault.

This tendency isn’t limited to social media though. It has slithered itself into the local church. Instead of selfies and tweets, our blemish-free life comes in the form of smiling faces on Sunday morning and answers to questions along the lines of, “Yes, we’re doing great.” For far too many Christians, we have a ” live and let live” mentality when it comes to dealing with personal sin. To approach someone concerning the sin that you know they’re dealing with is an invasion of privacy. For many pastors, this is a surefire way to lose your job.

This is a demonic mentality.

Sin hates exposure, and Satan wants you to keep that spiritual struggle a secret. After all, Jesus said, “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:20). As long as you and I keep our sin to ourselves, we are destined to fail, regardless of how many New Year’s resolutions we make. Christians are not intended to make the pilgrimage through this life in isolation. We are made for community.

By community, I don’t mean simply going to church. God’s Word describes community as having meaningful, life-shaping relationships. Paul tells the Ephesians to speak in such a way that their hearers receive grace (Eph. 4:29). Elsewhere, he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). The author of Hebrews encourages his readers, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).

Scripture is clear that followers of Christ should have brothers and sisters playing an active role in helping them defeat sin. Likewise, we should be playing an active role in helping others defeat sin. This can be scary though because it will mean tearing the wall that separates our personal lives from the life of the church. It will mean confessing our sins to others, letting them in on the fact that we, in fact, are sinful.

As you approach the new year, I have a few suggestions:

  • Instead of depending on your own strength and wisdom to achieve that resolution of becoming a better husband and dad, go to some godly men in your church and tell them your struggles, seeking prayer and wisdom.
  • Instead of keeping your battle with bitterness towards your husband a secret, confess that sin to your sisters in Christ, asking them to lift you up in prayer and hold you accountable.
  • Instead of continuing that lonesome war against pornography for another year, surround yourself with godly men who will constantly encourage you in Christ and will wisely advise you in how you can defeat that sin.

It’s okay if others know the sins that stain your life. Your identity is not in how good you appear to be. Christ is your identity. We have our worth in Him, and our incessant striving to make ourselves appear perfect is nothing but rubbish in light of the righteousness that Jesus achieved for us. This year,  I pray that you, along with myself, will seek greater transparency with the body of Christ so that we may grow more and more in the image of Christ, the true spotless One.

May God give you abounding grace in 2014.

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