Blind Spots

{I know I am about a month late but Happy New Year, everyone! I’m not big on new year’s resolutions, but I do have a goal to post more on here-maybe once a month. Please let me know of topics or anything that you would like to read about. It might hold me accountable to actually write :). For now, here’s a post on thoughts about community.}

The word community is thrown around in Christian circles quite often today. I don’t want to come off cliché, but I think it is worth writing a blog post or two about because I see it in scripture, and I want my life to be informed and molded by biblical truths. In the broadest sense, one definition of the word community is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Community can be seen in several contexts, and these contexts aren’t in and of themselves wrong, but I want to address community from a biblical perspective. The common ground is solely Jesus Christ and the bedrock of Christian community is to look to him and become more like him. The person or sole thing that unites Christians is not their personalities, their sports teams, their schools, their hobbies, their skin color, or their ministries-it is Jesus Christ, because our identity comes not from those things but from Jesus. With that one truth in mind I want to talk about two characteristics that come to mind when I believe such a community can thrive—authenticity and accountability. These characteristics are not easy or natural to come by though and there are some tensions… But I think if we can overcome these tensions and live out these characteristics, blind spots will be minimized, and we will be able to reflect community the way it is intended.

Tension 1: There is a strange paradox with humans—while we hate to be alone, we long to be hidden. In our humanness it’s natural to want to hide and isolate when things get hard, messy, or embarrassing (at least that’s my response). But to fight that we need to be real and give others license to call out our junk in a loving way. If I isolate myself and do not allow others to get to know me it usually leads to apathy, more blind spots to my sin, and a failure to receive love from others in a genuine way. I’m speaking from experience (yikes). Though it is painful, it’s humbling and necessary to invite and allow others to see and call out our blind spots because we all have them. Please hear me—I don’t think it’s healthy to invite anyone and everyone into this, but invite those people you trust and respect. It’s helpful to invite those that have a solid understanding of the gospel. This doesn’t mean they will do it perfectly, but they will be able to point you to truth when you don’t want to hear it.

One of the biggest lies I have believed and sometimes still believe is that I must pull away from the body of Christ and fix myself, and then come back and try to make a difference. That’s not how growing in faith works. Proverbs 18:1 says “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” 

Tension 2: Christian community is counter-cultural because the world will say that our problems lie outside of ourselves, not internally within ourselves. Christians acknowledge that our problems lie within because of sin, but naturally we put up our defenses when someone wants to hold us accountable. Paul Tripp would describe biblical community like this: “It’s intentionally intrusive, Christ-centered, grace-driven, redemptive community.” I would argue that on the surface we don’t want others to be intentionally intrusive with us and it’s never natural to want that. But if we are really honest with ourselves we know it is ultimately for our good to be held accountable and we do want it deep down because we need it to become more like Christ.

These tensions make the following characteristics I will talk about difficult to come by, but God. When I am tempted to be pulled by those two tensions, I can freely say “but God.

But God has given me freedom to no longer hide in fig leaves because he has sent Jesus to be my covering.

But God has given me an identity in Jesus Christ, so I don’t need to put up defenses or seek the approval of others.

I have to call to mind that the basis of community is the commonality that we all have: we are sinners and in great need of a Savior. That’s the messiness of it, but also the beauty of it. We can be polar opposite in terms of personality, interests, compatibility, etc. In fact we should have those differences because the gospel is about something larger than ourselves and our preferences. We will have different sin struggles and different strengths but it comes down to the reality that Christ died for all. We are united by his finished work on the cross. It comes down to the same goal: becoming who we are in Christ. Looking to Christ. Together.

Authenticity

When I think of biblical community, I think of authenticity with several hints of messiness. But we have to allow ourselves to be this. You won’t truly feel a sense of belonging unless you allow yourself to be fully known. Allow others in to the not-so-pretty areas of your life. You won’t be able to receive love genuinely if you are giving off a fake vibe to others that you have it together. Why? Because they love the external and fake you, not the real you. They love something that isn’t even authentic, so you can’t be at peace with that. You won’t get to experience the freedom offered to you in Christ if you put up a veneer when you’re around others. As I said before, the whole nature of our relationship with one another is built on this fact – we have all rebelled against God, and it’s only by his grace alone that we can be found favorable in his sight. So why would we ever need to pretend that we’re more than we are when this whole thing when it isn’t about us, but it’s about his righteousness on our behalf? If our identity is rooted in Christ, it should lead us to freedom in confessing and repenting not only to God, but to one another.

1 John 1:7 says “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” The gospel enables us to freely confess sin because there is no sin too hard or too heavy for the cross. We’re not walking in freedom if we fake it. The gospel exposes our darkness and sin, and we won’t see the fullness of freedom in Jesus unless we are authentic about that. If we feel we have to be dishonest, that is rooted in unbelief that Christ isn’t sufficient. That means we aren’t resting in the identity we have in Christ, so we will feel the need to “save face” or put up a facade.

The point of being authentic about sin and struggle is not to just talk about those things, but to hopefully redirect and find connection with Christ. I’ve noticed authenticity can become dangerous when it simply becomes word vomiting of sin, which can lead to us identifying with our sin, finding comfort in it, and forgetting the point of it all—pushing each other in the direction of Christ-likeness. If the motive it simply to demonstrate a willingness to appear broken before others, but have no real intention to throw off sin that we may know Christ more, we miss the point. Let’s be those that pursue authenticity with the end goal of Jesus in mind, not ourselves.

Accountability

Accountability goes hand and hand with authenticity. We cannot hold each other accountable if we aren’t authentic, and we cannot be authentic if we aren’t truly holding each other accountable for the sake of Christ. A painful but beautiful mark of biblical Christian community that I have seen is the confession and repenting of sin to one another. It is never easy or comfortable, but it’s biblical. Side tangent: most biblical things aren’t easy or comfortable. And the Christian faith is meant to be personal, but not private.

James 5:16 says “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” For Christians, it is application of the gospel to confess sin because in it we are living out our neediness for a Savior, and yet believing in the sufficiency of Christ to cover that sin. It is living out this belief. Not only is it applying the gospel, but celebrating the gospel together when we freely confess sin. And in the midst of that, rehearsing our thankfulness for the grace offered in Jesus Christ.

We need to be those who are willing to say “Please tell me the truth about myself. Where do you see inconsistencies? Where am I not reflecting Christ?” I was surprised when I had a friend recently who asked me that out of nowhere about herself. That can be uncomfortable, but it’s ultimately for our good. It is living out the familiar Proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We need to be willing to risk a friendship for the sake of Christ. It is not truly loving to enable someone we see walking down a dangerous path. It is truly loving to live out Ephesians 4:15-16: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” We need to put away falsehood by giving into the enabling, comfortable way, and seek the interests of our brother or sister by speaking truth, for we are members of each other (Ephesians 4:25).

Much like authenticity, there is a point to accountability and vulnerability. The end goal is to walk in freedom found in Jesus. It is not an end in itself, but should point us to the sufficiency of Jesus. Accountability is brought to life when one is willing to call out a brother or sister in hope that they experience redemption in Jesus. It is brought to life when we not only call out others’ blind spots, but lift our eyes together in hope to God. When we look together at his truth, when we cry out for comfort and wisdom from him, when we listen to each other.

There are 59 “one another” statements in the New Testament (see here). To me that screams that we cannot do this Christianity thing alone. We need like-minded people around us in order to be stirred for Jesus and his gospel. We need to encourage authenticity and accountability for the sake of knowing Jesus more and having our affections stirred for him. We need to seek out knowing others and being known by them. We need to seek out this “one-anothering” thing by being present, asking hard questions, listening to the burdens and joys that others have, and intrude a little. More so than needing to do these things, know that we get to do these things by God’s grace. It is a privilege, all to the glory of God and our joy.

Until next time (hopefully soon),

Kenzie

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