Politicians or business leaders who are caught in some public or even private failing are often the brunt of nasty criticism in the media, and are prone to face calls for prosecution, punishment or removal from office. Christian leaders caught in similar situations have to endure the additional pain of being seen as a bad witness for the faith. It is clear that society in general often demands authenticity of people, especially leaders.
In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26), he gently surfaced the woman’s attempt to hide her immoral life by disclosing his intimate knowledge of her past five husbands and her current living with a man who was not her spouse. He did this without condemnation and it had a great impact on the woman.
She summoned the courage to go and tell the townsfolk about the man who knew all about her chequered past. The transformation in the woman was so immediate that, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘“He told me everything I ever did.” ’” (John 4:39)
It is a natural tendency to keep our struggles and failings to ourselves. We tend to often confine our sharing to superficial things. While it is wise to be discreet when relating with strangers, this can make us unauthentic when relating with those close to us. When we wear our masks even with those close to us, over time it becomes tiring and alienating. Progressively it can and often does lead to a deep loneliness and even despair because our problems and struggles are all bottled up.
In our PAGE Small Groups, “A” stands for “authentic relationships”. There is something life-giving about sitting face to face with friends to share about our lives, being open and in the process, sharing life together.
Recently, one of my Small Group (SG) members plucked up his courage to share an incident on the football pitch. While playing, he witnessed an older man playing rough and injuring a young boy. He confronted the man and told him off in a heated argument. Later he regretted the unchristian manner in which he handled the matter. It was a liberating experience for him to be able to come clean before his brothers and sisters in the SG. He received affirmation for his act of kindness in sending the boy home, and received prayers for his desire not to let his anger lead him to sin in future. This transparency and other occasions of open sharing amongst members have led to building of spiritual friendships and prayer ministry for one another.
Paul Long, a pastor of a church in Auckland says, “Spiritual friendship formed and developed by being vulnerable in a safe environment, alongside disciplined study, contemplation, sharing and listening (and eating) has helped me to honestly and better discern and obey what the Holy Spirit is saying.”
If we have been hiding behind our masks, let’s seek out the safety of a trusted brother or sister in a SG. Practice authenticity and experience the liberation it brings. PAGE Small Groups strive to provide a safe and conducive environment for this. Are you part of one?
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. (James 5:16a)
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 22 February 2015)