Principle 10: As we all struggle, we must be continually honest, not constructing a facade of perfection, as this is detrimental to our recovery and the recovery of others.
If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
When I first got out of treatment, I didn’t want to go back to church. It wasn’t that anyone there was mean to me. In fact, they were kind and loving. The problem was that I was a mess and it seemed like those in church had life figured out. Their lives were shiny and mine was a disaster.
Not accidentally, around this time, I began going to jail, volunteering to lead a weekly Bible study. My intention was to give back, trying to help others, but I soon discovered the value for me, in meeting with others who also knew how badly they needed God.
I don’t mean to be critical of Sunday morning worship, but church in general, has an inherent problem, in that everyone dresses up, figuratively and literally, to go there. The effect is that, at least on the surface, everyone’s lives look neat and tidy. This environment doesn’t encourage honesty about one’s life problems.
In jail Bible study, there is no pretense of perfection or shininess. We all know what a mess we are and we all know how badly we need God. This environment is liberating, as weekly, we share with each other our successes and failures. We speak freely of our struggles and in doing so, we encourage others to speak freely of theirs. In sharing our struggles, we carry one another’s burdens, drastically lightening the load.
In my messy jail church, I am able to let down my guard, removing the facade of perfection that I’m tempted to display in Sunday morning shiny church. I’m not suggesting that we must confess our failures in front of hundreds of others on Sunday mornings. I’m just insisting that as Christians, we must find other Christians with whom we can pursue honesty about our struggles. We all need a close group of brothers or sisters with whom we can share our messiness.
Paul, in today’s passage, taught that we require mutual accountability. When we keep our struggles a secret, we remain sick. Honesty with ourselves and with others is the first step in healing. Being open about our own messes also encourages others to be honest about theirs. We all have issues and it does us no good to pretend we don’t. It’s only in sharing our struggles that we can help each other. This might be messy, but this is authentic, honest church.
Author’s Note: I’m currently writing through the principles that have helped me understand my condition as a Christian who still has very real struggles with my destructive appetites. I’ll include the full list here for reference.
- God created us to live in communion with Him, but man’s sin fractured that communion.
- We all struggle with flaws in our corrupt flesh nature, though it has different manifestations in all of us.
- When we come faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again into a new, perfect spirit life and restored to communion with God, but we still carry this gift in a flawed flesh life.
- Though God may graciously deliver us from some thorns of the flesh, some battles are lifelong, requiring the ongoing work of denying self and following Christ.
- We may always feel the gravity of the flesh, but we are not to live enslaved to it. We are meant to know and experience freedom daily in Christ.
- The Christian life (discipleship) is a continual process of abandoning (crucifying) the flesh nature and following Christ.
- Though we will fail, there is always grace and forgiveness for those who believe in Christ.
- Though we are forgiven, we are not to use grace as an excuse to continue in our destruction.
- God’s eternal forgiveness does not absolve us from practical, earthly consequences.
- As we all struggle, we must be continually honest, not constructing a facade of perfection, as this is detrimental to our recovery and the recovery of others.
- We should regularly meet together with other believers with the purpose of spurring each other on to the pursuit of God.
- God provides the only adequate replacement for our pursuit of self. This is core to recovery and identity. Though we try to find purpose, joy and fulfillment in self, we find the answer to our deepest needs only in God.
- Transformation (sanctification) is not an automatic process. It is our responsibility to daily do whatever it takes to deny self and follow Christ. The Holy Spirit always does his part. We must do ours.
- God allows the daily battles and honest struggles of recovery to deepen our awareness of our constant need for God.
- Our eternal identity as Christians is in our new life in Christ. Acknowledging our persistent flesh life and its battles does not deny our position in Christ bur rightly identifies the forgiveness and power that alone can be found in Christ as we daily experience life through Him.
- God saves us from ourselves. We must tell others what He has done for us.