The church is full of fakes. How do I know? Often I am one.
The topic of honesty amongst Christians has come up a lot lately. It has me asking questions like “What do we need to be honest about?” “What would the church look like if everyone really said how they were?” “How much is too much information?” “What if you just don’t feel comfortable sharing things with that person?” Despite my questions, I am convinced that in order for Christians to care for one another well, we need to be open and honest with each other about how we are going with our faith.
Honesty takes humility
When someone asks “how are you going today?” how do you usually respond? My default is “good, you?” usually, regardless of how I am feeling. There have been times where I haven’t wanted to be at church, when I have felt like the world was weighing down on my shoulders and I have pretended everything is okay.
When I pretend everything is okay when it’s not, I’m doing two things to my church family. Firstly, I’m denying my Christian brothers and sisters the opportunity to care for me. God calls us to bear each others burdens, to weep with those who are weeping and rejoice with those who are rejoicing, he says it is more blessed to give than to receive, he has provided us with a church family to serve and take care of. If I never say anything in the hard times, how can I expect other Christians to care for me?
Secondly, when I am not honest with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am communicating something about my life which isn’t true. I have heard too many stories of people who felt like they couldn’t belong to a community of believers because of how messed up their lives are. I have heard of people leaving churches because they felt like their family wasn’t up to standard, or they just had too many past sins haunting them, or they felt like they were the only one struggling. If everyone at church was truthful about how broken their lives are, and how much they really need Jesus, we wouldn’t be ashamed to share what we are going through because it wouldn’t be strange or out of the ordinary – it would be normal.
Honesty takes boldness
This type of openness with each other at church is not easy because it’s unusual. It goes against the grain of a culture that constantly tells us that what others think of us is important, and to “fake it until you make it”. In a society that values having it all together, and being in control and on top of things, admitting that things are messy is hard. Also, honesty requires boldness because being open makes you emotionally vulnerable.
Without honesty, however, we have the same issues as mentioned earlier. People aren’t able to care for one another properly because they don’t know how they can. People feel like they are the only ones who are broken in a sea of sinners. Honesty takes boldness because nobody else is sharing how they are, and being the first to do so is scary. But being the first to do so is always worth it. You never know how God will use your honesty to encourage others.
Honesty takes trust
The other reason that honesty is hard is because we it’s hard to trust each other. I’ve been burned by people in the past because I’ve assumed they were trustworthy when they weren’t. But God is calling us to be honest with each other (James 5:16, Galatians 6:2). We need to trust that God has provided us with a church family, imperfect as they may be, to care for us. And he has placed us in that church family to care for them. Practically speaking, how can we possibly care for one another if we never know what’s going on in each others lives? And how can people possibly prove they are trustworthy people if we never trust them with anything in the first place?
Where should we start?
A friend shared about a family sickness with us the other day. Another friend, when I asked how his week was, replied “Not great” and shared some of his family troubles with me. During a discussion group, another friends shared briefly about something they are struggling with. I was thankful for their honesty, for showing me how I could better care and pray for them, and for making me realise that I’m not the only weird one with problems and a messy life.
A church service leader began the service a few weeks ago by sharing with our church that sometimes he is an absolute mess when he comes to church. He shared how even though sometimes his world is falling apart, the church is not a building for perfect people, but a hospital for sinners.
God calls us as broken and messy people, forgives us for our sins, and begins to shape us like Jesus. We are all works in progress. None of us are perfect yet, so why do we pretend we are? Let’s just be real with one another.