Transparency & Openness

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Without hunger, where is the need for bread? Without thirst, why would someone reach for a drink? Without brokenness, what is the need for a Savior? For “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17, ESV). We claim to believe in both human sin and God’s grace, but we try really hard to look as if we have none of the former and all of the latter. However, grace has no use but for the sinner. If we intend to fully embrace the truth and impact of the gospel, God’s grace, and that from which we have been saved, we must live a life of transparency and openness with ourselves, with other believers, and even beyond the church with those who do not yet know the saving power of Jesus. 

The first and most important party requiring our honesty and acknowledgement of personal sin is ourselves. Romans 3:23, which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life…”, communicate why. Sin exists and is inextricably linked to our humanity. It was a part of our lives before we were saved, it is that from which we are saved, and, in our salvation, it is what continues to force us to depend upon the Lord. To pretend we have no sin in our lives is to claim that Jesus’ death on our behalf was not necessary. To embrace the depth of our own depravity drives us to thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice and humility before the perfectly merciful God of the universe who chose to save us from ourselves by the blood of His only and beloved child. For whom would you allow your child to die? You might give your own life for the sake of another, but your child’s?  That is the unfathomable truth about what God did for us through Jesus on the cross. No person deserves that in the slightest, tiniest of ways, and unless we embrace how thoroughly sinful we are, we disparage God’s love, His grace, and His saving power.  Being honest with yourself about your sin is the first step in allowing the Lord to use your story for His glory. 

If you aren’t sure that you fully understand your sin, ask God to show you. He cares infinitely more about your holiness than He does your happiness, and a prayer for God to “search [you]… and know [your] heart, try [you] and know [your] thoughts, and see if there be any grievous way in [you]” can be uttered in confidence because it is in line with biblical teaching and therefore God’s will (Psalm 139:23-24). Additionally, pray that God would teach you ever more about His character. The more aware we are of God’s complete holiness, the more aware we become of our own complete wickedness. Only in acknowledging the fullness of both can we hope to begin to understand the mystery of the gospel.  

Proverbs 27:17 teaches that man has the capacity to sharpen his brother just as iron can be sharpened against itself. Galatians 6:1-2 commands us to restore our brothers gently when they sin and to bear one another’s burdens. Matthew 23:27-28 warns against hypocrisy and lawlessness. Living transparently with our fellow Christ-followers enables our obedience to all of those instructions. If we do not confess our sins and struggles in the context of loving, Christian fellowship, we cannot be sharpened, no one can share restoring truth with us, and no one will know about the burdens we bear alone. We also risk continued struggle because, as C.S. Lewis said, “every uncorrected error and unrepented sin is, in its own right, a fountain of fresh error and fresh sin flowing to the end of time.” In the language of war, Ephesians 6:11 instructs: “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” An armed and well-clothed soldier is more protected than one bare; even better, though, is a girded and shielded battalion that communicates about holes and weaknesses in its ranks. The following verse, verse 12, reminds us that our battle is not just against ourselves; we face a vast and fiercely determined enemy. How can we hope to survive alone?

To be more open with others, start by confessing your sins and struggles to your spouse or a close friend. For more structured accountability and growth, join a D-Group. The purpose of these small, consistent groups of men or women is the iron-on-iron sharpening discussed in Proverbs 27:17. You get out of them what you put into them, so be honest and fully open about what you are going through. God will surprise you with the encouragement you give and receive by doing so, as we see in Paige Peeples’s story, also in this issue of Redefined. 

Finally, in the pursuit of bringing personal sin to light and embracing the free gift of grace we have been given, it would be infinitely selfish either to not extend that grace to others in our lives or to not explicitly explain the reason for the hope and freedom that we have. On the first count, if we have been shown infinite grace, how foolish to not forgive others for how they have wronged us? How much more foolish we would be to expect non-believers to act like Christ-followers, and then to also not show them the grace we have been shown. Secondly, and very importantly, the sentiment that we should allow people to see Jesus through our actions and, as a last resort, use words to share the gospel is very nice, but morality is not unique to Christianity. Islam commands piety; Judaism commands obedience to the law; Mormons are the kindest people I have ever met; even those with no religion seek philanthropy and some ethical standard for their lives. Grace, however, as a result of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and victorious conquering of sin and death as He rose from the dead, is. Grace means we don’t have to be perfect or pious to come to the cross. Grace means we come as broken beings, begging forgiveness and justification from a merciful God, whose grace continues to cover our brokenness through sanctification as we wait on Heaven. In none of that process does God expect us to be perfect. He commands it, but Jesus is the humbling reminder that God knew we would fail. If we have Jesus, we have freedom from the exhaustion of pursuing perfection; if we have Jesus, how can we not share clearly how we struggle and the grace we have experienced with those who do not yet know Him?

Be the salt and light you were called to be in Matthew 5. Do not let your desire to look like you have it all together prevent you from telling lost coworkers, family members, and friends about your own past and current brokenness and God’s incredible saving grace, because the pursuit of perfection denies our need for a Savior. Refresh the world around you with your openness about your imperfections, not as you brag or complain, but as you point others to the perfect Grace-Giver whom you serve. 

Let us together embrace our need for a Savior with openness and transparency so that the church can be a place of healing and growth rather than hypocrisy and appearances, for that is how, with humility and explicit clarity, we will be able to reach a world that does not yet know the saving grace of our God.

Kathryn Entrekin