Somewhere along the way we get to this place of comfort and assurance in our Christian lives where people finally accept us without judgment, then a storm comes and we suddenly find ourselves too afraid to come to the church for support. What we all misunderstand from time to time is that we aren’t alone. Our churches are full of people wrestling with this same problem. Add to that the problems we’re already facing and we end up feeling lost, isolated, alone, condemned, defeated, and helpless.
If the churches had a real down to earth confession time we’d see that we aren’t the only ones who are facing very complex issues within our families, neighborhoods, and work places. Everyone is suffering from some kind of issue and it could be within themselves, with a spouse, a child, a sibling of their own, or their own parents.
What we shouldn’t be doing is living in fear of being authentic people. How can friends learn to trust each other with their heartaches?
The short answer is by being people of grace. Yet, this is not as easy as it sounds.
As soon as you let people know you understand complex issues by name, some people automatically assume you agree with those issues. Being an understanding person doesn’t mean you agree with what you’re understanding. To refuse to hear people out and insist you don’t need to understand them is not how you establish your own personal boundary. You only end up closing people off when they need you most.
Christians face adultery, homosexuality, legalism, abuse, addiction, debt, gluttony, anorexia, abortion, and all sorts of other things. Just because Christians belong to a church doesn’t mean they are without their own dysfunction. We’re all fallible.
Some say Jesus came to show us how to be perfect, but I argue that Jesus came to show us how to be human. He didn’t ask us to relate to him, he came in human form to relate to us. Jesus showed us how to be angry, stand up for injustice, how to be in the presence of gluttons, tax collectors, and harlots. He showed us how to love, how to extend grace, and how to cry. He didn’t puff himself up as an idol to say, “Look at me, I’m so perfect. You need to be just like me, perfect in every way.” Not at all. He came to show us that we are just as we were created to be, human. Any amount of divinity that shines in our lives is a wonderful glimpse at who he is, but we are still humans.
I believe Jesus came to say, “it’s ok to be human” and any fallibility we see in ourselves is balanced out because of his grace. We suffer in this life, but he embraces us in that suffering. We face temptation in this world, but he never leaves us nor forsakes us.
I don’t expect a congregation to replace Jesus in our lives. I don’t expect them to perfectly extend grace, just let people know God does. I have hope that congregations can grow up more and learn to understand others. Even though we have Jesus, we still need one another.
We need Jesus-with-skin-on, a human Jesus. Maybe we can practice hiding our condemnation so people don’t have to feel like they need to hide their humanity.