Jane: “Hey! How are you?”
Stephen: “Good. How are you?”
Jane: “I’m good, thanks for asking”
Stephen: “alright, I’ll see you later!”
When you read that conversation, I wonder a few things. What was accomplished? What did Jane learn about Stephen? What truths were shared between them? What needs of Stephen were heard and met by Jane? How did this conversation advance their relationship to greater depths? Why was Stephen’s response so short-lived and short-focused? Why was Jane unwilling to ask if Stephen was actually “good?”
Does this conversation seem familiar to you? It should. If you’ve lived in 21st century America, you’ve probably had it countless times. And likely, you’ve thought to yourself, “Why did I say I’m good when my dad died last week and I’m really sad about it?” or “I’m OK, but not really,” or “I’m actually super excited about my birthday tomorrow, I’m better than good,” or “I’m super stressed about work, angry at my husband, and about to yell at my kid for grabbing my coat for the 1537th time while yelling ‘Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!’.”
For Christians, I wonder what would happen if we stopped saying “good” altogether. What if we refused to respond at any time to any person that we were simply “good?” For often, I contest, no person is ever just “good.” Likely, just a centimeter under the surface, each person is experiencing a myriad of emotions: excited, pumped, devastated, sad, convicted, bored, confused, anxious, euphoric, jealous, irritated, agitated, stressed, deeply troubled, surprised, nervous, grateful, or cranky or literally anything other than “good.”
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” - John 8:44
Satan is the father of lies. He wants to deny us the community we so desperately need. In this article, I will give four lies from satan that I believe cause us to be unwilling to be honest with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need not go further than Adam and Eve to notice a trend. In the Garden of Eden, he convinced Eve of a better treasure than God could offer, and what did they do? They hid themselves from God. Sin, shame, and death reigned. Everything was ruined (Gen 3:1-5, 8-11). I contend that satan has convinced the average evangelical Christian it is better to hide your true troubles in darkness than to let the church listen and love, even if that leads to lament or discipline. I would ask as you read this, be willing to search your own heart to evaluate whether any of this is true and what you can change in your life.
I am afraid most churches fall into two categories (but there is a third!): either (a) we talk at length about our problems and neglect the Gospel truths or (b) we talk at length about scripture but never relating it to our genuine problems. My wife and I have experienced both in the past. Let this be clear, this isn’t an authorization to make every conversation about you but rather invitation to be open about your sin and sorrow, and to encourage you to be the kind of person who invites others to do the same. This invitation is to be that third type of church, the church that gives appropriate place for our problems and how the Gospel changes us. We must be honest and open about our deeper matters and press on toward hard conversations filled with truths difficult to hear and tiresome paths of restoration. However, in light of eternal glory, I would ask us to turn our eyes to scripture and “let us run the race [of authentic faith] with endurance” (Heb 12:1).
So let’s get to it.
Why do we succumb to the temptation to forsake depth and embrace anonymity?
I think we can answer that in a multitude of ways, but for our purposes I will provide four (4) Common reasons and four (4) Gospel responses. Below each reason, I have written some common sentiments I have heard from myself and others.
We prefer to remain undiscovered…
that way we are not accountable for the bad thoughts we have about those we are supposed to love or the lack of ambition we have toward the things of God. If I don’t tell anyone my issues with anger, then it’s not a problem to be addressed. If I don’t tell anyone that I don’t remember the last time I’ve read my Bible every day for a whole week, then I won’t be embarrassed and convicted. If no one knows that my husband and I are fighting, then it’ll be easier for me to justify considering a divorce. If no one knows I’m addicted to pornography or having lustful thoughts toward a woman or man or child, then I’ll be able to handle it on my own (even though it’s getting worse each day). If no one knows I’m afraid to sing in church, then I can pretend I’m singing and not lift up my voice to the Lord and I’ll be fine. If I refuse to share my struggles with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, then I won’t be judged. If I don’t tell my brother in Christ I don’t want to give more money to the church, I can spend it on that new TV or vacation I desire. If I don’t tell people I think I struggle with racism, they’ll assume I’m good. If I don’t tell anyone I’m not sure I’m saved, then they will assume I am.
You see the lie about remaining undiscovered is that you think no one knows or no one is watching. The Gospel truth is that God and His angels are always watching, evaluating, discerning, and taking note of what you do or don’t do, think or don’t think, remember or forget. And this very God of this Universe who can send your soul to heaven or to hell sees what you are doing, and STILL will forgive you for eternal life and joy and peace with Him. This makes becoming known to others less intimidating, for the worst thing they can do is judge or ridicule (very few will take violent action).
That is, unless you believe the second lie behind remaining undiscovered: you believe man’s opinion of you is more important than God’s opinion of you. Which seems more regular, but is no less heinous.
How could the creation hold greater value to you than the Creator? I think this is helpful to ponder. We treasure an ice cream cone far greater than the ice cream preparer or creator. When was the last time you looked at the ice cream clerk in the eye and thanked them sincerely, emotionally, and persistently for preparing that delicious cream treat? I contest, never. That might be weird, maybe. On the contrary, you probably sincerely, emotionally, and persistently inhale the frozen food because it’s amazing (without giving a second thought to the minimum wage worker). Even more, what about the original inventor of ice cream? When is the last time you recognized him?
I think we struggle with viewing God in this way. We think the creator of ice cream is less desirable than ice cream itself. We treasure God’s creation of ice cream and neglect treasuring God. We treasure man’s view of us and neglect the Lord’s view of us. We treasure man’s acceptance and diminish Yahweh’s acceptance. We follow man’s life advice and don’t even consider how Christ would ask us to live. We care more deeply about Gary or Gina’s approval than God’s approval.
The Gospel response to the temptation of remaining undiscovered is to experience the glories and riches and honor and power and majesty of Jesus Christ in His forgiveness, love, affection, and long suffering.
When we look at Christ for all He is, the fear of man seems silly. When we know that nothing can separate us from His love when we are forgiven, it seems foolish to want to remain undiscovered from fear of man (Rom 8:38). Therefore, we can be honest about our struggles and sin, and let God’s people help us (Eph 4:15-16).
Come back tomorrow to view reasons 2, 3, and 4.