It seems to me that when Christians group together we seem to lack an attitude that inspires true confession, one might say an attitude of acceptance and love. I know that Jesus called us as his followers to be accepting and loving, as it says in Romans 15:1-7:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Basically the word is telling us to rely on each other for help when sin is tempting us or seeping into our lives, which I know it does to me on a regular basis (Romans 7:21 has it right, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”). And while it is wonderful to hear others bikini-wax-poetic on things-that-they-struggled-with-in-the-past-but-through-grace-are-freed-from, I find it hard to believe that the young adults I am honored to share this time with don’t ever come to the group beaten within an inch of their sanity by a week of spiritual battle, or angry at the douche-bag that cut them off at the exit, or mulling over what that co-worker said about their pants, because really, who irons their jeans?
Don’t get me wrong, if the truth is that everyone has weeks that culminate in assorted blessings and overcoming all obstacles then I’m happy for them! Praise and glory to God for your week! But what that isn’t the case? I’m concerned that there is a certain fear in the group that keeps us from using it as the spiritual resource that it should be, a group of like-minded Christians who will accept and love each other no matter how badly we screw up.
There is an incredible article here that illustrates what I am concerned with through some thoughts on Jennifer Knapp and her recent scandalous confessions. I felt sadness when I read the article because what it said resonated with me about groups of Christians: sometimes we feel a world of pressure to appear to have it all together, consequently disengaging ourselves from vulnerable, authentic fellowship.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6: 1&2
If we don’t share our burdens with our brothers and sisters in Christ, how will we be able to pray for each other? How will we be able to encourage each other with scripture and teachings? Who will we be confiding in and will they be able to help our spiritual battles or just lend listening ears? I feel that it would be to our benefit to lean on each other, not only in that as a sinner we can find comfort and grace in the word of Christ and His Divine love as it is given through others, but because in order to progress in our spiritual walks we will need to exercise our ability to help others, to be able to offer them strength and encouragement in a Godly way.
Of all the scriptures I can use to encourage the group,1 Corinthians is what I feel we should consider at times when we want to keep our mouths shut because we’re embarrassed of ourselves. According to what I’ve read, Paul was the founder and teacher of the church in Corinth, but when he got reports on their behavior he was none too pleased. The people of Corinth were not even struggling with sin, they were flaunting it. But Paul didn’t just tell them off, drop them in the gutter and let God deal with it. He wrote to them letters of encouragement and teaching, gave them advice and continued to love and pray for them through their times of darkness. So while they were getting rebuked left and right, it was also to their benefit to be called on their sins because it gave them a chance to be directed towards a life lived in the ways of God.
In conclusion, I’d like to call to mind Romans 12: 3-8
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.