A friend encouraged me to read 'Life Together' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Last week I read the first chapter. Then, I read it a second time. This morning, I sat down and turned back to the first chapter a third time to reflect on one particular passage:
'...God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christan who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother's is sure. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community; they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.'
I confess that this concept, while ringing true, stings in its truth. It has caused me to reflect on how many Christian communities I have been part of where this was not the reality. Bonhoeffer goes on to argue that a Christian community that is about anything other than, or in addition to Christ is not a Christian community at all, but is something else entirely - something he calls a 'religious fellowship'.
On any given Sunday morning in America, thousands of people gather together in these religious fellowships. They pass one another in the hallway, they shake hands, smile and nod at one another, choosing to wear masks of piety to protect what truly lies beneath. There is a great fear that binds them together and although never actually spoken there is a small inner voice that continues to whisper the lie, 'If we all keep pretending, maybe one day it will be true.'
There is no freedom there.
At what point did it become unacceptable to display weakness? At what point did it become dangerous to admit that we are all broken beyond repair? At what point did we decide that concealing our true selves was a better alternative than receiving the healing that God, in Christ, freely offers us?
I submit that it was the moment we took our eyes off of Christ and looked towards ourselves for salvation. Without Christ, we are forced into an endless game of comparison that leaves no safe place for our true selves. We are so afraid of losing the allusion of control that we spend years resisting the freedom He has offered us. We have chosen to crouch in the bushes, weaving together a garment of fragile leaves instead of receiving the rich animal skin robe that God extends toward our shivering frames.
I am done pretending. I don't want to spend any more time in hiding. I want to step out from behind my flimsy guard and cling to the truth that He has already looked upon my naked, ugly self and loved me in Christ. I want to experience the joyful freedom of being honest in Christ. I want to submit my whole self to His tender, compassionate gaze as He transforms me in Christ. And when I become discouraged or begin to doubt I want to know that I will hear the Word of God in the mouth of my brother and sister in Christ.
'For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.' - Jesus