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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Christians and the Lies they Tell

"I hate and abhor all falsehood, but I love your instructions." (Psalm 119:163, NLT)

The process of communication is a difficult one. There are so many places where miscommunication and misunderstanding can take place. Which makes it all the more confusing as to why someone would add into that difficult mix half-truths and dishonesty.

As a pastor I try very hard to navigate the path of being responsive to my member's needs, perspectives, and feelings. As a person who believes in the biblical principle of congregational government (a subject for a later blog entry I am sure) I believe it is even more important that I listen to members and their concerns as we plot a course for our journey of faith and commitment. What I have been surprised at over the past year, however, is how often the truth is illusive, or when present – taken to be dishonest or manipulative.

Somewhere we have bought into the lie that there are not people of integrity anymore so that when we encounter it, we respond only with mistrust.

When I first came to WHBC, the church had some issues of staff relations with certain groups within the congregation. One of my early goals was to try to move through the dysfunction of the relationship and to chart a new course for how we would relate. I was (and still am) convinced that the most appropriate way to deal with such a situation was to make everyone aware of perceptions that were held by the varying groups. It seems to me that resolution is never acquired as long as people are not being honest. I knew there might be some initial hurt, but if it were handled with gentleness and clarity, I also knew we could make the journey and come out on the other side stronger than before. To my dismay and surprise, the response I received was not one of mutual honesty and forthrightness, but instead it became clear that the parties involved somehow saw in my openness an ulterior motive. The very thing I was trying to achieve was impossible because honesty was seen as scheming.

Somewhere we have bought into the lie that Christians can’t feel sorrow.

Going back to my time at SWBTS and more recently in the church I have repeatedly met with people who say one thing when we talk and then turn around and do just the opposite. There seems to be a tendency on the side of Christians to put as positive of a spin on things as they can. Sometimes it goes so far as to be dishonest in the midst of a conversation, but to then live lives in the realm of the hurt, disappointment, or fear that they are actually feeling. As a pastor (or even just a friend) how can I lead people in the correct direction and minister to them effectively if they are not honest with me, or maybe even honest with themselves? The biblical church is built upon interdependence and trust. This means we let people know about our hurt, we let people know about our needs, and if we disagree with something we have the fortitude to speak to that disagreement – with love and patience. I don’t think my experience is unique on this matter – the Casting Crowns song “Stained Glass Masquerade” makes this clear:

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Chorus
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain

But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay

Well if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small
Words and music by Mark Hall , Nichole Nordeman

I don’t know the answer. But I do know that somewhere and somehow all of Christianity has to realize we need to discover a passion for honest exchange. The Church cannot be the Church unless we can say with the Psalmist - "I hate and abhor all falsehood”

ANY THOUGHTS?  And you can be honest :-)

3 comments:

Justin said...

I certainly experienced that very thing as well. Some people simply cannot believe that you (a person in power?) would not be working toward some ulterior personal goal. It seems the more open and honest I was, the more those people thought I was being dishonest. I'll pray things go well for you.

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Nancy said...

"There seems to be a tendency on the side of Christians to put as positive of a spin on things as they can."
I noticed a few years ago the Christian's tendency to belittle their own hurt. (my tendency, my own pain)
If someone comments how sorry they are for your situation, we respond, "oh, I don't have it so bad as...." (Or some well-meaning person points out to us that we don't have it so bad.)
We totally deny the hurt. I don't know if we've been told so often to count our blessings that we think we are less of a Christian if we can't find someone worse off than ourselves or what.
If only we would learn to count our hurts as blessings and not something to discount and dismiss. Perhaps then we could own up to our hurt and pain without the masquerade.
The truth I discovered is that my hurt is my hurt. The pain is real. It is no help to me nor to anyone else to deny the pain. The circumstances may not be as severe as those of my neighbor, but the pain is real. If we allow, God will use the sorrow that accompanies the pain to carve away at that facade we all carry. In the end, allowing ourselves to hurt and grieve may make us a little more real to the next person we encounter who is afraid that the pain they feel is seen as a lack of faith.