Sing us a Dirge: On Honesty in the Congregation
The latest issue of Touchstone is now available and as I was reading through it today I cam across a short essay by Christopher Jackson titled Minor Keys to the Kingdom. I wish there was an online link available, but the best I can do is refer you to the September 2008 issue and provide you this link to the table of contents for the issue.
I really appreciated the essay because it he cut to the chase when it comes to our gatherings as Christians and the fake smiles we sometimes wear. I feel this acutely at times as the preacher because on Sunday’s I am required, as a stipulation in my ‘contract’ or something, to wear a smile as well as a suit when I go to worship on Sundays. There is an unwritten rule that I did not learn about in Introduction to Ministries that states: The preacher is not allowed to have a bad day on Sunday morning. Jackson writes:
Sadly, many American churches unwittingly encourage their members to pretend to have it all together and be perfectly content. Even churches that vocally reject the prosperity gospel implicitly confirm that heresy. A kind of health-and-wealth theology has infected many churches, promulgated not so much by preaching or catechism as by the manipulative ‘How-are-you’s,’ backslapping, and vigorous handshaking before and after services. (12)
Perhaps this is a not so much a real problem as it is a serious problem in the church. If we Christians cannot be authentic and honest with one another, how on earth can we possibly be honest and authentic with those who in no way share our faith? I think that people are smart enough to know when we are faking it. Even Christians know when other Christians are faking it. Problem is that we Christians choose to ignore it and play along with the fakery likely so that we don’t have to actually engage people’s real hurt.
Jackson goes on:
Yet we often expect the fullness of joy and the absence of sin in our fellow Christians now. Therefore, we not only undervalue suffering, but we also lose the great hope of life of the world to come. We have forgotten that tears are the seed of joy (Psalm 125:5-6). We have exchanged hope for lies, making liars out of those who are world weary and depriving them of hope. (13)
And he concludes:
Will we ever stop the manipulative looks and questions Christians offer each other before and after the worship. I am not sure. (13)
I guess I just don’t understand why people can’t be honest with one another. Why can’t we share our hurts, our fears, our anxieties? Why are we so afraid that any doubt creep in among us? These are some of the questions that crept into my mind as I read Jackson’s essay. When will we, Christians, learn to speak the truth to one another in love? (Ephesians 4:15) If we cannot, and are not, honest with one another who we see, how can we, and why should we, by honest with God whom we cannot see?
Soli Deo Gloria!