Learning to Relate Authentically
“Accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self. Judas could not face his shadow; Peter could. The latter befriended the impostor within; the former raged against him.”
Last week, I wrote about a newer repentance (newer to me…) Looking at repentance relationally gives us a deeper understanding of grace because we are forced to look at the deeper form of our sin. It is beyond just the behavior that we did, it is now how we fundamentally exist with each other.
This is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of reasons. Primarily because the sin I ‘do’ is easy to identify most of the time. It’s easy for someone else to point out. It’s easy to feel like it’s in my control - I can just do better next time.
The problem with this is threefold (really it could be any number of fold but I chose 3 like a good pastor would):
- It isn’t what the Bible teaches us about our sinful nature.
- It minimizes grace.
- It keeps us feeling the pressure that we can...should...get better.
The Results of Feeling Pressure
This pressure, I believe, is what keeps most of us going. It’s what keeps us driven...going to church...praying for each other. We don’t even realize it because a lot of these things are good. None of us would admit we’re doing that because God will love us more (though I think we do believe that some days more than others)...but we are searching for that feeling of God’s love and the feeling that if we can just get past the brokenness enough we’ll be ‘better Christians.’
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. Sanctification is real. We are a new creation, being made more in the image of Christ as we walk with him. I fully believe that and cling to that promise. The problem is that I have placed the pressure for this promise on me.
This pressure we feel is also the reason we hide from each other. “I can’t let you know I’m struggling with this! I’m supposed to be a good Christian! I’m a leader...a pastor...a counselor…” When we focus on the depths of our behavioral sin, we find grace quickly, and we vow to work harder to make it better...to never feel how gross we felt when it was exposed.
But what can we do when we are exposed to the depths of our relational sin in the very nature of our existence? Can I ‘exist’ better tomorrow?
Moving from Doing to Being
Suddenly the problem (sin) of how I relate to people becomes so outside of myself that it begins to terrify me. What am I going to do - is the question I want to ask...but I’m now forced to ask How am I going to be?
There are a lot of answers to this question and I want to move beyond a religious answer - one that gives you a formula for how to follow Jesus better. I think the way we change how we are begins with authenticity...and I don’t know what that looks like to be honest. I heard a distinction this month between ‘vulnerability’ and ‘authenticity’ that seems to capture it well. Vulnerability is me saying something honest because I want to evoke a certain response from you. Authenticity is being honest with no hope for what is supposed to happen.
How much grace do we need from each other when we are being authentic over just being vulnerable? I think it looks different for each of us. There is, of course, a continuum, we can overshare, we can share so much that we lose our sense of self, we can share authentically and still have impure motives desiring a response...and that’s why I don’t think I have the precise, right way to do this. I think it takes trust and faith that when I open myself up authentically to another image bearer, the spirit of Christ in them will relate to the depths of brokenness in me and extend grace. It’s no longer about what I can do to make myself better...it’s about who I am in a different way, and how I invite others into the process of figuring it out with me. Even writing that strikes fear in my hidden heart. May the Lord open it to His grace. How can you relate more authentically to those close to you this week?