Christian community is making great strides toward improving and recognizing our weaknesses, but we have to keep up with the truth when communication is almost immediate and typically inch deep. Churches are resembling clubs where people have the chance to show off their newest outfits and smile away their cares of the week. Dressing nicely and being kind is not the problem – but if we’re looking for our love to be genuine toward those we are in continual fellowship with, we’re going have to stain our perfect ideals of ourselves one honest encounter at a time. This is what I mean.
How do we start the journey to let people see the true us? How do we learn how to walk beside these people?
1. Lower your expectations for others and raise the expectations you have for yourself.
This sounds cynical, but let me explain. Once you know that people are inadequate and broken and pretending like they have it all together just like you, you will be able to enter into a community life that is messier and more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, said, “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
2. Write down who you are and don’t apologize for any of it.
Whether you keep this list in your mind or on an actual sheet of paper, write down some of your characteristics, your interests, and what makes you come alive. In Christian community, we are to make each other better. We are to challenge each other to go the extra mile for Jesus and everyone we serve on His behalf. But, if your “Christian friend” is shaming you for an area in your life that you see as pure but just quirky, first, ask Jesus to examine your heart to see if there is something to repent of. Secondly, once you’ve taken time to listen to the Lord, and if the matter is simply trivial, do not apologize for it. It doesn’t mean you have to cut off this relationship because they said one negative thing you didn’t agree with. This is about keeping your integrity while at the same time actively working to live peaceably with everyone you interact with. It’s what is being called self-discovery. My personal definition of self-discovery is when you’re open to growth, but no longer sorry for what makes you who you are. It means that we don’t all have the same characteristics and personalities and backgrounds, and this is going to make collisions easy to come by. But it means we can make every effort to be unified, and sometimes that means agreeing to disagree. Will we run? Or do we face the conflict for what it is, fight for unity, and walk away stronger as individuals and as Christ’s church?
3. Walk humbly, and know your worth.
Before you enter the doors of the next social gathering you attend, this is what you need to tell yourself: Whether these people accept me or not, whether we click or not, whether we go beneath the surface or not, I am loved outside of this room. So are they.
Once you go beyond only knowing that you are loved outside of one single space, and somewhat grasp the true concept, you will then be free to be yourself, to invite the Holy Spirit to fill up every void, and to see people brighter than your own insecurities. And when we are willing to get outside of ourselves long enough to see people as better than ourselves, we can find that loving others is so much easier. We will wish that we would have checked our insecurities at the door years ago, because when we finally look outside of ourselves, there is a room full of people looking for all of the same things that you are.
Once we are free from the weight of our own emotional resistances, we are free to love people well and connect on a less artificial level whether the interaction leads into a string of stories or it falls short automatically. This freedom means you’re no longer afraid of being alone and you can sit taller no matter what the setting is. You’re just learning how to be embraced and how to stand alone with less apologies written in your eyes – and the important difference between the two.
To read the remainder of this post, go to The Rising!