This is becoming a big topic in the blogosphere: honesty. In all honesty, it is within the Christian blogosphere. Honesty is viewed as positive, the goal, the ideal, the standard for relationships. And especially relationships within the Church.
Can we be that honest? Perhaps not as much as we think, desire, demand… I watched “The Interpreter” last week (this is not an evaluation of the movie itself). One line from the movie stands out. The woman interpreter says to the Secret Service officer:
Let me be honest with you. I don’t know whether I can be honest with you.
At first glance, we might laugh and claim that the person has no clue about honesty. And she is the Interpreter? But in all honesty… that quote is far more significant than initially thought.
In all honesty before God…
When we claim to be honest, are we being honest, or have we set limits on honesty? Before God, one of our challenges is to realize that God sees us, knows us perfectly. Honesty before God strips us of any sense of mystery and hiddenness. Sure, we might join Adam and Eve and run to hide behind the bushes. But in all honesty, that only works short term. Honesty about ourselves before God shows us as we are: broken, overwhelmed, alienated, scared, marred, scarred, humbled. Do I want to be honest like this?
We see that as the end before God. But God sees this as the beginning. Until and unless we are that honest before God we will never see God’s new work of love, mercy, forgiveness, restoration, peace. Our partial honesty is replaced by the true honesty of Jesus Christ. Denial, fear, frustration, condemnation give way to repentance, security, joy, and acceptance of God’s work.
This is a huge hurdle for people to overcome, for me to overcome. By nature we like to live in partial honesty before God, and we live partially as the the new person in Christ. We turn to that which is comfortable, even if we are not being honest with God. That is why Paul urges us:
Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–20 HCSB)
I like the fact that in our worship services, immediately after the invocation, we have the opportunity to become honest before God. We call it “Confession and Absolution.” In confessing our sins, we have time to review in all honesty our lives privately, and then corporately. We confess those sins to God. Then we hear God’s declaration: “I forgive you your sins for the sake of Jesus Christ.”
That means not only are the sins forgiven, the conscience cleansed, the shame taken away, but also that true honesty sets the stage before God. We worship in all honesty our God. Jesus told the woman by the well (John 4), “You will worship me in spirit and in truth.” Honesty before God brings that to completion.
And as a corporate body, for at least a moment we have been honest, united by our sin and condemnation, but even more united in the forgiveness of sins.
In all honesty before others…
We would like to think that if we are honest before God, then being honest before others is easier. But in most, if not all, cases, it is not true. Our honesty before others is tinged by many factors. Is that person’s love, forgiveness, and honesty the same as God’s? Not really.
As I am a sinner (chief of sinners!), so the other person is also a sinner, even while being Christian. In Lutheran terms we use the phrase simul iustis et peccator, “at the same time saint and sinner.” Until we reach heaven, we will always live in this tension, with ourselves and with others.
The result? We tend to be guarded. Perhaps someone has hurt us, broken our trust, rejected us. Perhaps we struggle with suspicion, of everyone, at least a little. And so in all honesty we can only be somewhat honest before others.
In the church relationships such tensions can be stifling of true fellowship. In all honesty, I guard my thoughts, my past, my hopes, my fears… I want to be honest—to a point.
Reconciliation is key again. Even as we have been reconciled to God, so we are reconciled to one another. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians focused on what it means to be “in Christ” (37x in various forms). That standing “in Christ” involves the vertical (before God) and the horizontal (before humans).
For Paul the greatest barrier between humans was represented in the separation between Jew and Gentile. The hostility, enmity, however you want to describe it, prevented any crossing of the boundaries. Yet, in all honesty Paul wrote:
He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.
So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:16, 18-19 HCSB)
James extended the need for honesty, connecting healing, prayer, and confession of sins to one another—honesty before others. He wrote:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. (James 5:16 HCSB)
In all honesty… further reflection
The call to honesty on Christian blogs is good. But unless we examine what is behind it, and the implications of what it means to be honest before God, we will always fail. We will not be honest, only honest enough…
In all honesty