July 24, 2010

Proud of the Pigpen I’m Splashing In

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 8:11 pm by Tamara

Have you noticed how cool it’s become to talk about what failures we are?  Hypocrisy is bad, and honesty is good.  But I’m starting to think we’ve gone a little too far.  Too often we’re like pigs in the muck, happily splashing and saying “Look at me!  I’m sinning left and right!  I’m a total mess!  It’s okay, I’m no better than you, so you don’t have to be offended by me.  Come try this Christianity thing!  The muck’s great!”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Popular Christian attitudes seem to swing like pendulums.  It’s very hard to find the middle–something I know very well, being extremely drawn to the black and white.  I think this pendulum swing has come from our reaction against a mask-like Christianity that acts like we have everything together, and once you become a Christian, everything will be hunky dory for you, too!  Of course, this hypocrisy is not only harmful but ridiculous.  So we realized, rightly, that it was time to add some more honesty to our Christian dialogue.  After all, how could people see the healing, transforming, redeeming power of our Redeemer if we never admitted there was anything for Him to heal?  We also realized that one function of the body should be accountability–we need to admit our failures so we can help each other out of them.  This are good goals and beautiful results of true humility.  But, our enemy is smart, and of course he hates true humility.  So he twists it.

We’ve maintained, mostly, the part where we talk about our sins and failures.  But somehow we’ve forgotten the POINT of that.  When we talk about our struggles, it’s too often not because we’re broken-hearted over sin, it’s because it feels good to admit we’re sinning and have everyone else just nod sympathetically.  It takes a burden off our shoulders, makes us feel like maybe this sin isn’t so bad after all!  But true confession is not about just telling the story of our failure (and being proud that we’re humble enough to admit it).  Confession means agreeing with God that what we did was wrong, and that our sin is something deadly that He takes very seriously.  When I say “I’m really struggling with______,” that’s a good time for me to examine whether I’m really STRUGGLING against that issue, or just passively floating in the shark pool.

And why has it become “cooler” to talk about personal failure than to express faith and hope that God is powerful enough to help us out of any situation?  Eric Ludy says in his book The Bravehearted Gospel, “Oddly enough, the only people whom we trust any more in Christianity—the only people whom we consider to be real, honest Christians—are those who come right out and testify not of the power of Christ transforming their lives, but of their own sinful indulgences, lusts, and indiscretions, and their complete inability to cease from a single one” (p. 137, emphasis mine).  When did we forget the power of our God?  When did we forget that the point of a Redeemer is that He redeems?  Why do we act like there are some issues that are just too big for Christ’s blood to cleanse, so we may as well just sit around and tell each other “It’s okay, don’t worry about it?”  And why should anyone want to join us in the Christian life if we ourselves have no hope of change, healing, and life?

My challenge to myself:

  1. If I’m admitting my failure, I’d better make sure that I realize how serious that sin is, that I’m broken-hearted over it, and that I’m consciously telling God, “I agree with you that this is sin, please help me!”  If I can’t say any of that, I probably need to stop talking and start praying that God will help me see my sin the way He does, otherwise I run the risk of just encouraging someone else that the sin isn’t that big of a deal after all.
  2. When someone else admits to me that they’re struggling, I need to not only tell them “I understand, and I have the same struggle,” but also tell them “There’s hope!  God is strong!  He cares about this, and He’s given us the life of Christ so we can conquer this.  We don’t have to be defeated!”
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