I think this post will connect with other Christians, but I hope my non-Christian friends enjoy the perspective too. I’ve been thinking lately about what it really means to be a Christian, to live in community with other Christians, and to become more Christlike every day…and still be real.
Living in Christian community means being vulnerable to others. It means we study scripture, we worship God, and we help each other become more like Christ. Functionally, this means we sometimes point out when a friend could change a habit or adjust their thinking about something. It could be small, like telling a friend that her fight with her husband about who should do the dishes was really an example of selfishness on her part. If we are really to think of others more highly than ourselves (see Romans 12 and Philippians 2:3), than I should do the dishes every night, because Mike surely doesn’t want to do them. I think of him more highly than myself when I do something for him that he would rather not do. We may help our friends adjust something bigger, like telling a friend that he drinks too much. Addiction of any kind is a form of idolatry, but even outside the Christian context, addiction is understood as a debilitating problem that steals people’s joy, time with family, and sometimes health and life.
It takes vulnerability to allow other people to say these things to us. Laura, you are selfish. Laura, you drink too much (calm down. it’s an example. i don’t have a drinking problem). Laura, be more like Christ. We don’t do it out of a desire just to change our behavior. Rather, we lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to change because we want to be like Jesus. To walk like him, talk like him, and bring him joy. It is our joy to do this, even when it’s hard.
So what am I wrestling with? Other than it being hard to accept criticism, what’s the problem? Well, I’m glad you asked. There’s a culture within the Christian faith that causes people to talk a certain way. Act a certain way. It began innocently enough, as any like group of people develops their own vocabulary. But it can become exclusive, alienating, and… fake. I call it “Christianese.” It’s a dialect.
It’s easy to hear “Laura, you’re being selfish” and react fakely, with a humble nod and a Christianese stand-by line of “Thank you for sharing this with me. You’re so kind to care about me enough to bring this to my attention.” BLAH. Come on, who thinks that way? If I hear “Laura, you’re being selfish,” my first reaction is defense, then anger/crying. I want to have a humble heart, and eventually God always brings me to that place, but until then? What do I do? I fake it. And that’s my point, I guess. Christianese can get fake really fast, and I don’t think that brings God glory. I think a better response can be “Wow, that is really hard to hear. I’ll admit my first reaction is to defend myself and argue, but I need to take time and then react later.” Isn’t that real? Isn’t it honest? Isn’t that what God actually wants his children to do: be real with each other?
I don’t feel like I’m articulating my thoughts very well, but I’m going to wrap it up anyway. I am making a conscious effort to BE REAL with my fellow Christians. Some of you may notice I sound more blunt. Or more sinful. Well, I am sinful. I always have been. It’s just that now, instead of hiding it and sounding humble and spiritual, I’m taking off my mask and baring it all. I want you to know me – even the dark, icky, sticky, sinful bits.
I think God wants this realness. I hope I’m right. And I hope that the church and God’s people can all be real as we interact with each other and with non-Christians. I hope my non-Christian friends see the realness of my church family and are drawn to Christ because of it.