Sin Boldly! Final Update in the Advent of a New Tradition

Are we Christians not the most uptight bunch of people you’ve ever met or what?

Myself, included – at the head of the line, really.

Jesus said that the truth would set us free but come into any church and often you’ll find the most locked up bunch of stiffs anyone can encounter this side of the mannequins at Macy’s. I’m not talking about styles of worship. I’ve been in churches where the worship is free flowing, dramatic and spirit-filled but soon as the coffee starts flowing in the fellowship hall everyone seems to develop social rigor mortis. I’m talking about relating to one another.

Getting to know other Christians can be a minefield. We carefully test the ground to learn one another’s theological pet peeves, scriptural biases, cultural boundaries and denominational influences. We come out of prayer circle, having shared the desires of our hearts for healing or spiritual growth or freedom from a past sin only to find ourselves judged for having mentioned the wrong opinion regarding a particular holiday tradition, political/social issue or popular cultural reference.

If I’m really honest (and I’m trying to be) I learned through the great Advent of a New Tradition experiment this month how close I am to being a Pharisee. I spent the days leading up to Christmas determined to spend time WITH God and time WITH others in meaningful ways. With God, I am easy, open and direct but with other Christians I’ve become cautious, fearful and strained – always afraid of saying the wrong thing, of stepping on someone’s theological big toe, of standing alone exposed or of revealing any areas of ignorance or confusion.

Sure, I’ve been in several church upsets – some real dog fights through the years – and I have battle scars from those encounters but that’s an excuse, not a reason, for hiding my real self from other believers. The true source of my Phariseeism is a mixed bag of pride, fear, desire to please, distaste for confrontation and a reluctance to openly judge others or be judged by them. I fool myself into believing I’m being “slow to speak” when really I’m just hiding in fear, clutching safety like a spiritual blankie.

I don’t have this problem with people who are not saved but only those in the family of God. I guess, silly as it seems, I don’t want other Christians to know I am a sinner saved by grace or that I am still in the process of being made perfect or that I am still learning and falling down as I do so. (Though, I’m not really fooling anyone, just keeping us from having a deeper relationship.)

This isn’t right. This type of relating in families is the source of dysfunction. I believe “iron sharpens iron” and so I believe deep relationships with other believers help us to grow up in Christ.

Jesus said that the truth would set us free and I need to live that freedom inside the church of Christ. My college professor used to tell us “A Christian leader has nothing to prove and nothing to lose.” Nothing to prove because we’ve already been found guilty and been pardoned through Christ. Nothing to lose because we’ve freely given it all over to Jesus anyway.

Have you ever noticed that the best sayings are the hardest to live out?

Martin Luther said it like this: “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.”

So, as a result of this time spent WITH God and WITH others through Advent, I’ve a new awareness that in the coming year, I must stop hiding from other believers – even writing it scares the dickens out of me, if you want to know the truth. My favorite movie is Braveheart but I’m afraid a movie of my own life would more likely be entitled “Chickenheart” unless I move forward with this change.

But, I knew this would happen going in. It’s impossible to spend quality time with Jesus without being challenged to change. What’s crucial now is continuing to spend time with Him so that I am empowered to change.

OK, yes, and spending time with other Christians so I can live that change.

Don’t know if I will make immediate progress from mannequin to fully functioning human but maybe I can move from mannequin to crash test dummy – you know, the mannequins with the moveable limbs? It’s a wildly appropriate analogy to how I feel about the process –crash test dummy. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Do me a favor, won’t you? Occasionally in the year to come, ask me how I’m doing.

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    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    I think you have hit on something difficult for many of us….”the truth” is sometimes hard to admit…but when we surrender…it does set us free. I am still a work in progress.
    Blessings, andrea

  2. Mike says:

    Ending the year with a bang, brava!

    The beginning of this one had me laughing so hard, I nearly spilled my vodka tonic all over my “Saved By Grace, So I Can Judge YOU!” t-shirt.

    Wait, let me re-phrase that…

  3. Thanks for opening up, Andrea! I love having you around.

  4. Mike, I sooo want one of those T-shirts! It would totally compliment the one I’m wearing “Glad I’m not judgmental like those ‘other’ Christians”! Tipping my mug of dark beer to you! 🙂 Lori

  5. MIke says:

    Lori, I think we may have the makings of a product line here…I SMELL MERCHANDI$ING!!!!

  6. Joe Crowley says:

    Hi Sis. Very good one! You can start with me if you would like. I’m a thick skinned, good listener. And I will be longsuffering before I quickly shred you. Love, Joe!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Wow, that’s not at all threatening, bro! 🙂 You and CC make relating to other believers very easy!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Oh Lori – how true!! And that was just so easy to type… actaully doing it better, however… I’m going to try to aim for being a crash test dummy with you, but I’m starting out from being the hot plastic not yet made into a mannequin! Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement. I need to really be aware of this, my habits are so well formed. I appreciate your honesty – you disarm me well!! 🙂

  9. This is a great read and highly encouraging!

  10. Those habits happen to all of us but God’s power is greater than our habits. I’ll meet you in the crash test car! 🙂

  11. Sherry, thank you for coming by and for leaving your kind comment!

  12. Refreshing and motivating – I had never heard that Martin Luther quote before – it’s great!

  13. Karen says:

    Lori and Mike – I’d order a few dozen of those T-shirts. I know lots of people I could hand them out to. Oops! I just did it, didn’t I? 🙂

    Awesome post, Lori. I often find myself thinking carefully before I speak in the presence of other Christians. I don’t want to be judged, nor do I want to be seen as being judgemental. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we all decided to be who we really are without risk of retribution?

  14. Cheri says:

    Lori, this is such an awesome post! It resonates strongly with my heart. The truth of your thoughts are at the very core of Glass House Ministries.

    This past week, Wayne and I spent ten incredible days with our children and their spouses (and intended spouses). We were packed like sardines into a small house, sleeping on blow-up air mattresses and couches. There were plenty of tense moments, moments where dysfunction threatened to rule the day. I learned that I am still V-E-R-Y codependent. I want to make everyone around me happy… or die trying.

    But in this time period were also the gems that God gave us when we least expected it… like when I had a chance to visit with my future daughter-in-law (spoken in faith) about the spiritual state of my dad and my sister, who need to find freedom in Jesus… like when Wayne and I dined at a Mexican restaurant with our two single kids and their intended’s (again, spoken in faith), and we had a chance to talk candidly of our son’s battle with addiction, and rejoice in his three years of sobriety… like when our youngest daughter told us that she and her boyfriend had the most fun with her dad and me on the trip! Those are just a few. And they came from just “being real,” sharing our honest feelings and fears, joys and sorrows.

    God is good.

    I am blessed to have you in my life!