The 'S' Word
As believers we sure do seem to spend a lot of time talking about sin. Sin is the 'S' word that gets credit for everything from a wayward thought to a major transgression. It is at the heart of every fault and failure. And when taken to the furthest extent of its influence, it is responsible for every woe the world has known.
As unbelievers we probably had someone share with us the Four Spiritual Laws, explaining how God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, but that sin has separated us from God. The good news for the sinner is that God has a remedy in His Son, Jesus, and if we receive Him into our lives, our sins can be forgiven and we can be born again. (I remember vividly the night I heard that story and asked the Lord into my life...and it was wonderful!)
But the 'sin' message doesn't stop when we get saved. On any given Sunday we hear about how we need to continually come to God for forgiveness and cleansing from our sin, because we are 'prone to wander,' have hearts that are 'deceitful and desperately wicked' and are those in whom dwells 'no good thing.' And then to reinforce the 'truth' of our desperate condition, we are reminded that we are 'only sinners saved by grace.' Oh such a worm am I!
And we believe it...
We believe it regardless of the fact that the word of God says that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."(II Cor. 5:17) Yes the new has come -- new nature, new life, new heart, new desires, new relationships. New! New! New!
We are in fact members of a new humanity, made in the image of the Last Adam, Jesus. We are now in absolute fused union with God Himself. And He has given us everything that is necessary to life and godliness.
W.E. Vines put it this way, "When God looks at the position of a Christian, He sees the separated, sanctified, righteous, and perfect life of His son Jesus Christ. The saint need never fear of losing this standing before God because it is his union with Christ that brought it about. This union can never be broken."
To that new man sin is an issue to be sure, and on one hand I don't want to diminish its significance, but I don't believe it is nearly the issue that we make of it. I think there is another 'S' word that has a far more devastating impact on our lives and spiritual communities.
Shame is the 'S' word that keeps us in paralyzing bondage to what God says has been dealt with completely and conclusively at the cross.
And shame is the 'S' word that destroys the foundation of our unity in Christ by alienating us from one another.
Shame is the little voice in us that convinces us that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. It is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are fundamentally flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. And it is kept alive by the unrelenting message that we're 'only sinners saved by grace' -- when in fact we are saints, holy, righteous and justified.
Shame denies what God says is true about us.
Shame prevents us from experiencing true Christian community -- loving and being loved.
Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.
Shame thrives on secret keeping.
Shame hates to have words wrapped around it.
Shame is the catalyst for living a hidden life.
Shame drives me to cover up, disengage, not show up, not contribute, stop caring.
Shame makes me a prisoner of pleasing, performing and perfecting.
Shame is what separates me from unhindered, transparent, vulnerable, loving union with God and others.
Shame is the devastating reality we perpetuate in our lives and churches because we are not willing to live in the light with nothing hidden.
The power of shame is broken when when I take off my mask and trust God and others with myself!
Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly,frames this concept of vulnerability and truth-telling this way: "Connectivity means sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them -- people with whom we've cultivated relationships that can bear the weight of our story."
The unfortunate truth of most church communities is that we spend more time creating masks and building relationships of half-truths and obfuscation, than building trust through 'daring greatly' and living out of who God says we are.
It's time for the next revolution in the evangelical world -- creating and nurturing communities of grace where shame cannot survive.
Communities that are places so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it.
Communities where authenticity, vulnerability and trust are not lofty aspirations, but the reality of daily interaction.
Communities that celebrate and embrace the reality that we are truly new creations in Christ.
Communities that realize, teach and model the truth that the cross that saved us is also enough to solve us.
For those communities to exist each of us needs to commit to:
- Asking permission to earn another's trust.
- Seeing each other as a saint who still fails rather than a sinner saved by grace
- Wanting to foster an environment where nothing stays hidden
- Are convinced we are righteous and holy -- even on our worst day
- Knowing that living in love will mean I live without shame
- Wanting to earn each others trust so we can love and be loved
- Depending on Christ’s life in us to be enough
- Ending the policing of each others behavior and focusing on enjoying life in relationship with one another
- Encouraging each other to throw away our masks
Individuals like this will establish and grow the communities that through love of the truth of who God says we are, will abolished the 'S' word!
Teacher, speaker, entrepreneur and follower of Christ; with a passion to be a catalyst for authentic community.