BIG IDEA: Our fear and lack of trust cause us to short circuit God’s design for small group, but the depth of our friendships determine the direction and quality of your life.
We try to convince everyone that we have it all together: successful careers, strong satisfying marriages, well-behaved children, and crystal clear consciences. We go to extremes to create and protect the fake versions of ourselves that we present to the world. We buy cars arid houses we can’t afford or suffer unsatisfying careers that happen to pay the bills or hide our marital struggles instead of seeking help. In short: We keep secrets.
Have you ever had a raging argument in the car on the way to church with your spouse, children, boyfriend, or girlfriend, only to force smiles as you clip into the building and make your way through the crowd? Most of us have.
But isn’t there something in you—something in each of us—that makes you want to be known for who you really are? When we present false images to the people around us, we feel tension. We feel like phonies, hypocrites. And at the deepest level, we know that’s no way to live. We long for the person we are in public to be the person we are behind closed doors.
A life in which there’s only one version of us, no matter who we’re around, sounds simple, pure, and magnetically attractive. But it also feels unattainable. Even if we want to shed our false selves, there’s a sense that a certain level of hypocrisy is part of being polite. We’re not just fake because we want to look good; we’re fake because no one really wants to hear our problems or deal with the ugly parts of our lives.
Jesus designed Christian community to be the place we find wholeness, a congruency between who we are in public and who we are in private. He wants us to live together honestly and transparently. Not so we can come to terms with our brokenness, but so that we can begin to grow out of it, becoming more like Him. In John 10:10 Jesus is quoted saying, “A thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I came to give life—life in all its fullness.”
Jesus wants us to live abundantly. He didn’t come to take from us or to harm us. He came to release us from sin so we could connect with God and to show us how to live meaningfully in community with one another. A full, free life begins with a trusting relationship with God and expands outward into trusting relationships with other people. The Bible describes the kind of community Jesus wants us to build with one another:
Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God. ~ Romans 15:7
Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinions. ~ Romans 14:1
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. ~ James 5:16
These passages describe a community that is inclusive, accepting those who are exploring faith, not treating them as though they have to figure everything out and clean up their lives before they’re invited inside. It’s a community in which people can be themselves and depend on one another. It’s a community in which we don’t stand in judgment of one another’s flaws, but call to one another to become our better selves–people who love and give to others. Just like our relationship with God, our relationships with one another must be built on trust. And the ingredients for that trust are time and transparency.
Time: To build the kind of community we desire for you, you’ll need to spend time together some of it structured around growing in your relationship with God and some of it casual and unstructured. Sometimes you need to just hang out with no agenda other than enjoying the company.
Transparency: In Christian community, we share ourselves. Maybe not all the time and maybe not all at once, but this is the goal: to be real in every relationship and to actively build a few relationships in which nothing is held back.
We all struggle with sin and its effects. Knowing others and being truly known, bringing our struggles out into the light, is the only way we become free from them.
The idea of trusting other people with our true selves is scary because they might reject or condemn us. But think about it: if someone in this room opened up to you, would you reject or condemn him or her or would you offer support and be more inclined to be honest about who you are in return? If you’d respond with compassion, why assume the worst about others?