A Love That Intentionally Wounds

Yesterday, Crossing pastor Keith Simon gave a powerful sermon – “God is Not Enough” – on the value and necessity of community to the Christian’s walk of faith, a strong antidote to the common (but mistaken) belief many believers hold onto, namely “Just me and Jesus…and I’m good!”

Hands Joined in PrayerI can’t begin to add to all the insight that Keith offered yesterday, so I won’t even attempt to do so. What I can share, however, is my own personal experience with regard to the beauty and insight that comes only when people know you – the real you – and feel confident enough in their relationship with you that they can speak into your life…without paying for it later.

Growing deeper in our trust of God and belief in His promises is a lifelong walk, the kind of process that I have found particularly humbling of late. There are lessons I find myself learning that I am tempted to think, “Why on earth have I gotten to 50 years of age and still don’t have this lesson down?”

A wise friend recently reminded me that perhaps I’m looking at the glass half empty rather than, in gratitude, seeing it as half full. Instead of beating myself up, perhaps I might consider thanking God that I can see unhelpful patterns of relational sin in my life now, when I can still break the pattern, repent of the sin I’ve been so blind to, and forge new and God-honoring paths in my relationships in the future?

I really should be grateful for this insight, and I am fairly certain I would not have seen this particular issue if I hadn’t been in close relationship with people willing to speak hard truth into my life.

There were many wise things that came out of yesterday’s sermon; if you missed it, I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing. The one thing I want to emphasize is the statement Keith made about the absence of truth being spoken into your life. Keith made the point that if no one is saying hard things to you, then one of two things has to be true; either:

  1. you are a perfect person and there is no sin in your life that needs to be pointed out, or,
  2. the people in your life are afraid to tell you hard things.

For the majority of my younger years, the vast majority of “truth” I received from others was only what matched my own beliefs; that “truth” was very often not biblical.

As just one example, I recall a few people I knew affirming my “need” to end my first marriage. I vaguely recall ignoring a few who questioned the speed with which I threw myself into dating, but instead listened to others who thought it was a good idea to “get back out there.” I made a lot of poor choices with regard to how I spent my time – decisions that affected not just myself but my kids – and yet I could always find people willing to agree with my decisions.

Looking back now, I can easily see that I surrounded myself only with people who agreed with my opinion or people unwilling to speak hard truth to me. I think most of those “friends” were not what the book of Proverbs calls friends at all, but the kind of companion that multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6). If there were people around me who possessed solid, wise, even biblical advice, they must not have felt the freedom to share it.

While I don’t think I’ve ever been in any danger of thinking I’m perfect, I now see the lifelong tendency to get defensive whenever someone has pointed out anything “less than perfect” about me. A lot could be said about that but, for now, I simply want to highlight the fact that I denied myself a lot of years of authentic relationships by pridefully closing myself off to critique. I think even now I can get defensive about my sin and make it hard for others to speak truth to me. It’s something I’ve had to actively give people permission to do on my better days, in hopes that they will push through when they see me stubbornly bulling up.

Authentic community is not always easy.

We’re all in process, and many days the Apostle Paul’s words really resonate with me; I really do feel like I’m the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). At the same time, I am falling-down grateful for the community of believers in my small group that I now have around me, people not only willing to shed light in dark areas of my life, but to do so as they also embrace and accept me as is, recognizing that we are all a hot mess in need of Christ’s finished work on the cross.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

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