I have the often unpopular opinion that, as Christians, we should live out our lives with the utmost honesty about the faults and sins we have and do struggle with. We should wear them right on our sleeves as evidence of Gods mercy and grace. We are all fallen creatures with a myriad of pasts filled with brokenness.
The tendency tends to be that we walk around with smiles and an aura of pride at what we have accomplished as people of faith. This is a dangerous dishonesty and and a middle finger into the face of our Savior. We have done nothing! It is only by his grace and love that we even take in our next breath. In fact, we remain full of a sinful nature, and have nothing to boast about (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Our walk of pride, often well intentioned, is excused as a way to somehow “bribe” others into the faith. What it actually does is push those far from God further away with the thought of “I can never be like them so why even bother”. Or even worse, “look at those Christians and their smugness, why would I want to be part of that?”.
Outside of our mission to go into the world and to share the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20), the “everything is always great and so am I” attitude can become a cancer of hypocritical legalism within our own faith communities. We can point out the faults of everyone outside while living in a camouflaged bubble of false Christianity. Famed theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “legalism is our way of trying to fool God, others, and ourselves into thinking we are better than we actually are” (paraphrase). This fool-hearted disguise works to make what should be our place of comfort and redemption into nothing more than a masquerade ball of hurting people trying to make sure that our masks are always on straight.
I don’t know about anyone else but I always seem to connect more with a pastor, writer, or teacher who shares real life struggle. The guy who opens up honestly about his missteps and the redemptive power of grace is the guy that I am drawn to. “He’s just like me!”
Coming to Christ should make us better people, it should transform our lives. That being said, we still fail in a pretty constant basis. We are clay being formed into the image of Christ, we have not become Christ himself. And our pasts are still what they were, they haven’t changed, they’ve just been forgiven.
Our pasts should be our most powerful witnessing tool. They show what we were, and what God (not us!) has done and is continuing to do. Hiding them or acting as if they never existed is removing a powerful weapon for advancing the Kingdom from our arsenal. It weakens us both internally and externally, hides Gods glory, and turns the whole thing into a disgusting charade.
On a personal note; I have been an addict of more than one kind, a failure as a husband, father, son, and friend. Arrogant, prideful, thief, full of lust, short-tempered, manipulator; are all labels I have lived under. I try to share these stories whenever the opportunity arises. It sometimes feels that I have done everything wrong at least once, and usually multiple times, throughout my life. These occurrences dramatically decreased, or were eliminated altogether, entirely because of the impact of Jesus on my life, but sin is still there. I am thoroughly broken still.
Jesus uses my past brokenness, and current slightly less brokenness, constantly for the good of his kingdom. That is where any shame disappears. How can I feel shame or guilt about something that God uses so effectively? If my life has been redeemed, it has been redeemed fully. Every part, good, sinful, or otherwise, is His to use as he sees fit.
Martin Luther famously said “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger…”. I believe that this is what he was talking about.
Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)