Someone said to me recently, “There’s always two sides to people.”
The woman lived several states away, but I’ve heard her words before.
She felt no one at her church was willing to be open and honest about their life, so she no longer felt welcome to be open and honest with them. She craved a place to spiritually and emotionally rest while struggling through the cattiness and fake smiles at her job, financial troubles, and raising a son on her own.
Her heart ached for an authentic body of believers who would come alongside of her and build her up with prayer and encouragement.
She longed for something real.
Authenticity cannot be replicated by clever packaging, eloquent language, or good intentions.
It’s living a life that pursues and praises Jesus when times are good and still pursues and praises Him when times are bad.
It’s a byproduct of a consistent relationship with Holy Spirit.
It’s about openly admitting when you don’t have it all together.
It’s sometimes uncomfortable and scary.
It’s a willingness to be emotionally vulnerable.
It’s not caring about your reputation or what other people think about you.
And it’s desperately needed in our churches and in the lives of every believer.
A thriving and healthy community within a church cannot survive without authenticity.
Through the ups and downs of life, our church communities should set the standard of what healthy and loving relationships look like in the midst of a highly dysfunctional world.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:23-25
The moment we value “doing church” over providing an environment where imperfect people can come together to worship and serve Jesus imperfectly, community begins to die.
James sums it up this way:
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. ~James 5:13-16
A community of believers confessing to one another requires everyone involved to be emotionally present and honest about their life, while providing patience and grace for people to make mistakes without fear of condemnation.
Part of our witness as the Body of Christ is allowing God’s grace and sovereign hand to shine through our joys and our struggles.
We are so quick to fill our social media feeds (and our mouths) with praises for Jesus when life is going well, only to be silent when suddenly finding ourselves in a season of pain.
What’s so dangerous about this is, as followers of Jesus continue to pretend their lives are flawlessly put-together storylines on Instagram or Twitter, the world will continue to believe they must be perfect in order to be loved or forgiven by God.
Seriously. Think about it.
Is this what we want to portray?
But, do not let your heart be troubled. It’s never too late.
All it takes is for a few believers to set the example of what authentic community looks like. You’ll be amazed at how many people will flock to your Bible study or church group just by following the instructions from James on how a church community is supposed to function.
Ultimately, it starts with one courageous follower of Jesus who is willing to live a transparent and authentic life-to have only “one side.”
Will it be you?