A Place without fences
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2).
“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” (James 5.16).
We value security. We want to feel safe. Even when it is inconvenient, we are willing to sacrifice a small amount of freedom for the value of feeling protected. We do not like others knowing too much about ourselves. We do not want other people in our spaces, faces, or financial places.
We live in a culture of fences. We erect fences around our homes and properties to keep people away. We have a habit of keeping people at arms-length, mostly to protect ourselves. From vulnerability. From inconvenience. From annoyance. It has been interesting to hear many of our older members bemoan the loss of “front-porch living” where people would sit on their front porches, talk to their neighbors, have conversations with people walking down the street, gather together to drink some iced tea, and talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly about life. This style of living has changed to “back-yard living,” where people can enjoy their family in privacy without being seen by neighbors. Front yards are now for impressing instead of inviting.
This cultural trend has influenced the church mightily and negatively. We are still friendly in God’s church. We still know how to welcome visitors. We still know how to shake hands and introduce ourselves. The question, “How are you?” is still asked, but it is now rarely followed up with listening or genuine concern; nor is it genuinely answered with anything more than, “Fine,” as the person walks on to find someone else to barely talk to. Rarely do deep conversations about life happen between the pews of our auditoriums anymore.
And this lack of sincere concern has nearly eradicated the act of confession in the Lord’s church. While we know we should confess and seek help, we rarely follow through. We do not trust those who would hear our confession. We don’t know them well enough to know whether they actually care or not. We figure they have as many problems as we do, and we don’t want to infringe on their life of private comfort. We have more reasons to not admit our need for help than we have for confessing, so we refrain.
Even when we are invited to share our struggles (i.e., every invitation given at every service, every meeting of the elders, etc.), we refuse. We’re embarrassed. We’re restrained. We’re private. So we go week after week, struggling with the same sins, dealing with the same depression, fighting the same anxious thoughts.
Well, let’s make this personal. I care about you. Genuinely and sincerely. I want you to feel better, to be happy, to enjoy life, and to know you are loved. I want to help you with your sins. I have plenty of time to listen to you talk, complain, weep, or even rejoice. If I don’t, I will make time. Your difficulties are more important than my checklist. You have a friend at East Shelby (and many other besides me). Today is the day to make some changes in your life, to open up and let someone else in.
If we are God’s church, we will do this. We will start a culture of confession that rejects the private culture of our world. We will allow the church to be a place of safety, not because we hold everything in, but because we let things out so they can be dealt with and overcome!