The abundant life and freedom you long for can actually be experienced in Christ and his community, but you have to get real with yourself…
Six months ago my wife and I were blessed with an opportunity that many young couples talk about, but few get to experience. We had another married couple, with whom my wife and I had been separately great friends with in college, move into the other half of our duplex. We’re talking literally sharing the same building for a home with some of our closest friends. Our garages are attached with a door and we don’t even have to actually step outside to go to each other’s homes — we call it a portal! It’s cool on a level that’s almost hard to believe sometimes.
Plus, we’re not even in college! We’re not even in our original college town. We’re doing work, ministry, marriage, and strategic planning of our future life, and we get to do it all with great friends in very close proximity!
While our church community is quite amazing and full of amazing young adults and young married couples (which is why our friends moved here), literally living in close physical proximity to friends sure reveals things about who you are that can otherwise be easy to pretend aren’t real.
Anyone who has been married for more than a week knows this is true. But, if you’ve been married for more than a year or so, you also know that it can become easy to start excusing and justifying things in yourself, falling into grooves and patterns, or even completely never noticing the things that you and your spouse have similar or “complimenting” weaknesses in.
However, by bringing others into your daily life, and most importantly, daily inner life, you get seen again with fresh eyes.
This is the power of living in community. This is the power of what the church is supposed to be for each other as originally formed and commissioned by Christ and the apostles.
This reality has been on my mind a lot because of our circumstances and also because we’ve been planting a church for many years now — trying to actively form a mature and healthy community.
Your Friends Likely See You More Accurately Than You See You
It’s easy to paint this as a fun and encouraging thing (both my circumstances and the idea of a healthy church community), because it is, but it also has a stingingly difficult aspect to it.
I have been reminded again and again over the past few months how true it is when scripture says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
The reality is that though we’ve been given a “new heart” if we are in Christ (Ezek 36:26, 2 Cor 5:17), we also still have sin residing in our flesh that has not been fully renewed (Rom 7:18-24).
Because we are so subjected to this dual nature, it’s easy to still grow rather numb and dumb to it. This is why the the New Testament repeatedly tells us to be “sober in self assessment” and to “abide in Christ” and “walk in the Spirit” and so on.
However, it’s also why Scripture is clear we need the church community. We all know how easy it is to see other people’s sin rather objectively, but secular studies even show that we all tend to evaluate our own mistakes in an extremely subjective and positive scale with flattering light.
In other words, “I did this because my circumstances were tough and it made sense, but he did this because he’s lazy, mean, and arrogant!”
You know you naturally tend to think that!
But, true friends come along and say, “Nope, you too did this because you’re just as lazy, mean, and arrogant as the other guy.”
I have repeatedly been seen lately that people who are walking with Christ, especially close friends and mentors, quite often see you with more clarity and honesty than you see yourself.
Complete Authenticity Met With Love Is Freedom
What’s worst of all though is that if we start to believe our subjective evaluations of what is true of ourselves, we start to actually think we’re fooling others too!
Then, perhaps without being conscious of it, we have to maintain this act that no one but ourselves is fooled by, rather than be honest, humble, repentant, and free.
I’ve noticed this foolish belief in myself and in others. It’s sad. It’s bondage.
Authenticity is all the rage in our culture right now, and for good reason. We all know we stage and frame our social media with extreme selectivity and filtering. We present ourselves in the best light possible. It’s a natural tendency. We crave order and perfection.
Yet, “natural” isn’t as pretty as we want to fool ourselves, and mostly fool others, into thinking. None of us have order and perfection. Jesus Christ, and him alone, does.
Therefore, the best thing we could do for ourselves is get sober in self-assessment (2 Cor 13:5, Rom 12:3) and allow ourselves to admit we’re broken and prideful and lazy and mean and selfish on the inside — not just a tad messy with good reason. We’re still pretty nasty and need help!
Then, the best thing we could do for others is tell them we already know this about them and yet we still love them just like Jesus has done for us! What a relief!
This is what a good and Godly spouse does moment to moment. This is what a good and Godly friend and church community should do day to day.
Sometimes, sadly so, we have to be the ones that lovingly admonish each other without the original admittance by the friend. But again, that’s one of the most loving and freeing acts that can happen. It’s an embodiment of exactly what Jesus did for us.
It frees up friends to stop faking and fronting and start growing and flourishing.
So I would urge you, submit yourself to the prideful and lazy community trying to be humble and loving together. Then, love your brother enough in that community to tell him he can stop being prideful and lazy because you already see that he is, just like you are, and you’re already sticking with him, just like you hope he is with you.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)