“The frame of reference shifts. The culture begins to define the Scriptures instead of the Scriptures defining the culture. The egalitarianism in mainline Protestantism is a concession to our culture, a way of rejecting biblical values and saying, ‘The Bible, when all is said and done, is not our authority. The culture is our authority.'”
Matt Chandler | The Explicit Gospel
What would happen if we embraced our vulnerabilities? If we made them public, if we displayed them outwardly, for everyone to see?
You see, I have this theory. It’s a little out there…a little outside the norms of the “Indian Christian community,” but I think it’s pretty valid – especially in this day and age.
We are vulnerable. Each and every one of us has something in our past, present, or future, that makes us acutely aware of our shortcomings. Self-awareness allows for us to admit to our vulnerabilities. Acceptance is key. But there’s another step we often try to ignore: sharing. Yes, that’s right. Sharing. When we share our weaknesses with one another, we open ourselves up to a whole new world. We invite wisdom, growth, and victory to enter the dark spaces in which these weaknesses lie.
If you’re not from the Indian community, this may not sound like a big deal. But if you are, then you know that reputation is probably THE most important thing in our culture. Girls, undoubtedly, get the shorter end of the stick with this (no, I’m not being biased….okay, maybe I am). But guys also have to deal with reputation-based issues. I’m sure many of you can identify with following:
- feeling like you have to be perfect – always
- feeling like people are just waiting and watching for you to mess up
- feeling pressured to act a certain way, especially with regards to gender roles in the family unit/church setting
- feeling like you always have to be extra, extra, EXTRA cautious when interacting with members of the opposite sex (side hugs only, please! Front hugs, not allowed!)
I could go on and on. This is just barely scratching the surface. Our culture imposes a lot of strict guidelines on us – on the way we think, act, feel, speak, etc. And sometimes, we place more value on the rules of our culture, than on the Word of the Lord.
I distinctly remember a period of my life during which I felt like I literally had to hide EVERYTHING from EVERYONE. Much of it had to do with the fact that I was straight up doing things that I shouldn’t have been doing. But a lot of it also had to do with the fact that I didn’t feel “safe” sharing what I was going through with anyone else. During those low times, I desperately wanted an “out” – I wanted so much to be the girl that God created me to be. I wanted so much to honor Him with my actions and my words, but I kept falling flat on my face, time and time again. At every Breakaway Bible Study, I would be brought to tears by the conviction of the Holy Spirit – shamefully hiding those tears from my friends sitting next to me, in fear that they would find out I was living a lie. After every Breakaway, I would resolve to do better, live better, be better. But of course, without anyone to guide or mentor me, without anyone to hold me accountable, I fell. Over and over again. The training wheels had come off, but I hadn’t quite mastered the art of balance yet. Which, as you can imagine, didn’t end so nicely. But by God’s grace (and by His grace alone), I finally found my way out of that destructive lifestyle. But every time I think about that period of my life, I wonder how much of it actually would have transpired if only I had someone to confide in – someone to hold me accountable, someone to mentor me, someone to love me through it, without judging me.
Our culture doesn’t really make it easy for us to share our weaknesses. Our culture places such an extraordinarily high value on reputation that it ends up being the very thing that pushes so many of us away from the Lord – whether it be temporarily or permanently. Don’t get me wrong, we should strive to make the best of this life we’ve been given. But not at the expense of our faith. I wonder how much more united and cohesive our churches, our local communities, our families, even, would be if only we removed the stress and fear associated with failure/weakness.
There isn’t a single person on this planet that is perfect, and there never will be. In our everyday “Christian conversations,” we talk about the fact that we’re ALL sinners. That we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. And yet, we place this impossible standard of perfection on each other. The fact is, we all sin. Yes, even good little Indian Christian kids. And more often than not, each of us has engaged in, is in engaging in, or will engage in a form of “unacceptable sin.” Now hold on a second, I’m not saying that there’s actually a type of sin that is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. No. Not at all. Rather, I’m saying that we ourselves have sorted sin into two categories: acceptable sins vs. unacceptable sins. An acceptable sin would be like telling a “white lie.” An unacceptable sin (especially for our community) would be things like giving into lustful temptations, sexual sin, drinking/drugs, murder, etc. At the end of the day, sin is sin. But somehow, we tend to let the “acceptable sins” slide, while condemning every violation of an “unacceptable sin.”
We are a sinful people. We screw up daily, hourly. We are weak. We constantly fall short. But instead of hiding those vulnerabilities, what if we embraced them? What if we felt free to share our faults and failures, what if we didn’t fear our reputations being shattered, what if we didn’t feel condemned by our family, friends, and community? What if we actually had a solid support system, people that cared, people to hold us accountable, people that would lovingly admonish us according to the ways of the Lord? What if people loved us through our mistakes?
God gave us each other so that we could lean on one another. He gave us community so that we wouldn’t have to be alone. People make mistakes all the time. But mistakes don’t define a person.
The forces of culture and reputation demand us to have impossible expectations for one another. We need to remember that we are all sinners, saved by grace. We need to remember that we have no authority to judge one another, for we ourselves are flawed beyond compare. We have no right to alter the definition of sin – no sin, whether acceptable or unacceptable in the sight of the world, is acceptable before the Father. We need to remember that our brothers and sisters who are struggling in the faith do not need any more judgmental glares or whispers behind their backs. What they need is a safe place to open up, a steady shoulder to lean on, gentle hands to hold them, serving hearts to love them. What they need most is for us to show them grace, grace, and more grace.
Think back to a time in your life when you found yourself in a rough spot – a time when you felt you couldn’t confide in anyone because you feared you would be judged or misunderstood. In that moment, how would you have felt if a fellow Believer graciously loved and served you through it? If you were so lucky as to have someone to talk to about the things our community/society condemns us for, then you know how valuable investing in someone else is. If you didn’t have anyone for those times, then you know how necessary it is for the Church as a whole to have a “heart change” regarding these things.
Will we continue to let culture define us? Or will we allow for the Holy Spirit to mold us and use us in a way that brings glory to Him – in a way that will secure more souls for the Lord? Friends, let’s make a decision to judge less, to love more, to embrace our weaknesses, and to grow from them.