How many “real” people do you know? I don’t mean real in an ontological way, but I mean “real” as in people who are honest with their struggles. Must people present to the world an unrealistically flawless persona.
I dare say that this ridiculous behavior is a lot more common in church, which is ironic since being a Christian is essentially about coming to terms with our own inadequacies. And yet, we go on about our lives putting up a front that says, “Hey, my life is perfect and I never screw up.”
That’s why I love this Bonhoeffer quote:
“It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”
Like Bonhoeffer said, the final breakthrough, the real fellowship happens when we are honest with each other. The real fellowship happens when we admit that we’re vulnerable and imperfect.
The thing is that no one expects us to be perfect because we’re not. And as believers, we should know this better than anyone. However, there’s this tendency, this gravitational pull toward being fake that doesn’t allow us to be real with others.
That’s why I believe one of the reasons the apostle Paul kept saying how he was “the least of the apostles” is because he knew we have this tendency to build up a fake representation of ourselves. He repeatedly mentioned his failings so that other believers could see that he was just a man. He was transparent about his failings. He wasn’t fishing for a humility compliment. He was just being honest.
And that’s another byproduct of our ridiculous edification of a perfect persona, we look at people at the Bible and think “we can never do what they did” because despite our “perfect” front, we know all of our sins and issues. But if only we were real with ourselves and with others, we can see that God uses screw ups to advance his kingdom. We can then truly believe that despite all the miracles, “Elijah was a man just like us.”
Finally, going back to the Bonhoeffer quote:
“We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”
In the end, our desire to keep up with appearances ends up isolating us from others. Real fellowship is never established and truly deep friendships rarely flourish. And when a “real sinner” is discovered amongst us, like Bonhoeffer said, we act horrified and shocked. Instead, we should be compassionate, loving and most of all, honest. Just tell that person, “Hey, I too struggle with this,” or, “I used to struggle with something similar.”
Stop the fakeness. Jut be real.