Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Public Bath

My husband Ken has mastered the skill of taking “instant” showers.  He says he is so fast in the shower because he doesn’t get dirty.  It must be that clean living.

I wonder, though, how often we take that attitude with our spiritual lives—if we’re “good,” we won’t get dirty.  If I attend church regularly, tithe faithfully, serve sacrificially, pray regularly, and read my Bible daily, I won’t have to worry about sin.

But the Apostle John warns us that he who says he has no sin essentially makes God a liar (I Jn. 1:10).  Often, though, we don’t see our own sin.  Our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9).  We end up in a classic case of ignorance is self-righteous bliss.  That is why it is so important to engage in body life.  Just as children grow when their faults are exposed among their siblings, we grow as our sin is exposed as we worship and work together as members of God’s family.

Personally, I would prefer to encounter and deal with my sin privately.  But I can’t.  It is only when I am in relationship with others that my selfishness becomes visible.  It is only when I am serving with others that I confront the question: “Am I doing this as an expression of love for my Lord, or am I doing this to impress someone?”

It is almost certainly uncomfortable to have our weaknesses seen in public.  To coin a popular phrase, I think it is time we get over it.  Please allow me to make the following observations:

v Our discomfort at having our sins exposed is directly proportional to our pride.  The better we think we are, the harder it is to recognize, accept, and acknowledge our faults. 
v The exposure of our sin is a threat only if we are finding our identity, value, and security in our performance, in our own righteousness.  If our identity, value, and security are in Christ, we can welcome the exposure of our sin because it gives us the opportunity to confess, repent, and become more like Christ.
v  Practicing vulnerability in our church family gives us the opportunity to experience the power of being known and loved anyway.
v The willingness to expose our weaknesses helps us to live more honest lives.  This pleases and glorifies the God of truth; it also provides a powerful witness to nonbelievers who cannot connect with “perfect” Christians.
v As we take responsibility for our sin by confession and repentance, we make deep, rich relationship with others possible.  This reflects both the nature and design of our Lord.

Now that I’ve got you excited about all the good God can do in our lives as we live in transparency with one another, there is more good news!  This opportunity for growth is easily found.  In fact, it can be missed only if we run away or walk around with our eyes closed.  Virtually every gathering we attend, be it a gathering of two or two hundred, offers us a chance to deeply engage and take the risk of letting our self-protective guard down.  Perisseia (Windsor Chapel’s women’s growth group) is one such opportunity, and anyone who attends at least somewhat regularly can attest to the fact that my sins and areas of brokenness are often brought to light.  Have you heard about the time I rolled over someone’s boundaries—during a session about that very topic?

Although I am not suggesting that exposing our sins should be our goal as we worship and work together, I would love for us to participate in body life without reserve and without fear, confident that God is doing a glorious work in us, through us, and among us.