Matthew 6:5 When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.
When I got out of chemical dependency treatment, I was acutely aware of my need for God. I had a problem however. I was terrified of going to church. The thought made me a little queasy. I needed God but I did not want church.
People are sometimes impressed that I go to jail for a bible study, but the truth is, I started going to jail, not as much for the inmates as for me. I desperately needed to meet with those who were aware of their own need for God. I found that in jail. I am not criticizing my own church. Maybe if I had been less concerned about my own pride I would have found that in church. The truth is however, is that church can be a little uncomfortable to the struggler.
We love the story of the sinner who came to Christ and now looks completely different. We would not go so far as to say that Christians do not sin but neither are we comfortable confessing that we still struggle with drugs, alcohol, pornography, anger, pride or greed. We would rather identify only with our new spirit life, hiding the fact that we are still depressed, anxious and struggling with our flesh nature.
We are often taught (I am not speaking specifically of my church here) that ours is an identity problem and so, we just need to identify with our new spirit life, denying the existence of the flesh life. While the Christian walk is, as Jesus defined it, denying self and following him, He also insists that we are not to put on airs, pretending to be perfect.
I am not to treat my faith as a performance to be seen by others. How many have been driven away from the church by the hypocrisy of pretending to be something I am not? I am not suggesting that I abdicate my identity in Christ. I am just suggesting that I should be honest about my own mess and not pretend that I am perfect. That hypocrisy is an obvious façade that repels those seeking God.
James, brother of Jesus, commanded, confess your sins to one another (James 5:16). I am to be rigorously honest about my own continued struggle. This is not comfortable. It is easy for me to talk about my destruction two years ago, but it is not quite as easy to be honest about current struggles.
As it turns out, when I did go back to church, I was welcomed back with literal open arms and hugs. Thankfully, there were those who were honest about their own need for God and thus, did not look down on me. Likewise, I need to remain honest about my continued need for God.
I am not any better than the one whose struggle may be more obvious than mine right now. I need to be willing to tell others of what Christ did for me. I have this new spirit life in which I am forgiven and free, but I still live in this flesh, and I still desperately need him daily. I am not perfect but I am forgiven.