Letting others in
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another...By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 3:16–18
Mark Zuckerberg makes the news every few weeks. It might be because he is one of those tech billionaires, and so the world is attracted to paying more attention to him. But he also is in charge of Facebook, and sets the direction of the company. There is often this tug of war with Facebook where the news explodes that someone doesn’t like something they did, and then Zuckerberg goes out on a PR trip to explain what is happening. In my recollection, one of these PR movements ended up with Mark Zuckerberg talking about Facebook being a community. It was quaint, but slightly off. I think this is because people can be transparent on Facebook without having to show their face. The traction in such a internet relationship is necessarily pretty low and lacks the enduring and necessary physical connection. It is an odd thing, but physical touch actually establishes trust. In this coronavirus time, there was a radio special that talked about how not having handshakes super-lowers trust between people. A handshake equals a few hours’ worth of talking as far as trust building goes, according to social science.
This is our broader world. It is quite the world to live in, but the transparency and openness that we see on Facebook doesn’t end up turning into transparency and openness in real physical life (full disclosure: I only follow Ami on Facebook, so this is from my memory of the platform a few years ago, and news and such). We can spill our guts one these super-public platforms, or perhaps just our vacation photos, but when we see someone face-to-face, we struggle both to ask for meaningful help in our struggle with sin or with suffering, and we struggle to be involved enough in others’ lives to be of much help. Over the past 20 years, we have all become more isolated and less able to walk with one another through difficulties, and of course this is heightened for us in the last few months.
My first two years at All Nations, I specifically mentioned the important of both hospitality and discipleship, but also of being on the receiving end of someone else’s hospitality and discipleship. I wonder if such a thing is so difficult because to receive the kindness of someone else can be a humbling experience. When we had a miscarriage, people brought us food, lots of food, it was humbling to receive it. When you have financial distress, you don’t want to tell anyone about it. When you are suffering from loneliness, you turn in on yourself and suffer even more. Most of us naturally turn in on ourselves in moments of suffering. We don’t want to be seen as lacking some basic ability or dignity.
And even worse, in our sin we hide from the healing balm of the gospel and the help God has given us in brothers and sister in Christ in his church. We metaphorically burn the bridges. One of the saddest things is that this is often the path that Christian move from one church to another. From a distance, we see someone struggling, but we are unable to find ways of help. Not only that but the sufferers end up isolating themselves and end up leaving the church and blame others for being a failure. We can admit that we are all failures. We struggle to fully accomplish what God has called us to especially to those who are suffering the most. But we are also at fault for not personally allowing others into our lives. We do not love one another like we should. We do not give up ourselves for the sake of others. We do not let ourselves stay too long in the uncomfortable places. This is my confession, and I hope you can see your own failures in this as well. May we seek to grow in humility as we seek to love one another and to be meaningfully open with one another about our trials and confessing our sins.