There are conversations, and then there are conversations. I just had a conversation. No holds barred, judgment-day honesty, heavenly likemindedness. One of those conversations with no trace of self-consciousness, no thought of self-preservation, no center but Christ. It wasn’t scholarly or academic. It wasn’t guarded. It was raw. And it’s funny and sad to me that we’ve made up other categories of conversations.
Ever feel like your conversations are frivolous? Like we’re all wearing a lot of spiritual make-up? Like you’re living life at a formal banquet where the girls are in heels and the guys are in tux’s and everyone’s doing their best to make an impression, all the while knowing that none of us are acting like who we really are? It’s dangerous to start noticing things like that, because it implies you need to change. It implies that we all need to change.
But even while we squirm around in our formal duds and hack our way through awkward pleasantries and duck and dodge through the obstacle course of surfacy conversations, we like it. Because who likes things raw? Who likes things real? I guess if you have to call it an admission, I’ll admit it: I do.
It’s funny that we mock lawyers for not being genuine. We caricature politicians as being cheese-ball. Yeah, we’re a lot better.
Maybe if we were actually in hell when we had our conversations, we’d be a bit more honest. We’d all know exactly who each other were. We’d know what we deserved, and we’d know that we all deserved it. God would be the only one on display, since we’re so obviously jacked up so as not to be impressive in the least. Eternal punishment has a way of humbling a man. And knowing that you deserved it and didn’t get it has a way of shattering a man. As it is, though, we try to be cool. I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all fine, and all the while, nobody’s fine. Who really believes that he deserves hell? No, what I deserve is a kinder, gentler version of hell. I deserve the simmering version, not the boiling version. Because I’m just not that bad.
What, did Jesus die for somebody else?
I’m not saying that my goal in life is for every conversation I have to be about how screwed up we all are. I’m just saying that authenticity is irreplaceable. When you meet a person who just straight up, all-out loves Christ and keeps His commandments, you know. At the end of the day, it’s pretty hard to mistake the work of the Holy Spirit. People like that are genuine, because they’re unashamed. They don’t flinch in the face of fakery. They don’t stutter when speaking the truth. They don’t waffle when opening their heart. They live out loud. And someone may be the quietest person in the world but live out loud. Soul-deep blamelessness is unmistakable. Heartfelt passion for God cannot go unnoticed. Self-sacrificing love for others is never fully invisible. These people know who God is. They know who they are and what they’ve done. The “-tion” words aren’t old to them. They love the old, old story about salvation and redemption and adoption and reconciliation and sanctification and glorification. And they don’t love anything else but that.
If you can’t think and speak honestly and without self-pity about your sin and your weariness and your gut-wrenching burdens and your unthinkable thoughts, then you probably don’t praise and thank and adore and magnify the Lord with much rawness, either. Not that you should always be spontaneous. I’m a very calculated person, by nature and by choice. I think it’s a good way to live — the best way, for me. But calculation and premeditation should not mean hypocrisy and superficial and hiding.
The world needs to see more out-and-out Christians. More let-it-all-hang-out Christians. More loud-living Christians (understand what I mean by “loud-living”). More blameless and holy and radical and childlike Christians. And the church needs to see the same thing.
The apostles didn’t “preach.” They cried out. Nathan didn’t say, “Hey David, I’d like you to think about something.” He said, You are the man. Ezra didn’t mumble, “Lord, looks like we messed up again — sorry about that.” He pulled out his hair, plucked out his beard, tore his clothes, and said, Our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens (Ezra 9). David said, Adore, tremble, dance, cry, leap, clap, and shout.
So what’ll it be?
How will you deal with your sin? A tuxedo or a torn robe? How will you praise God? With a mumble or with a shout? How will you speak to others? With tight-roping self-preservation or with wide-open love? How will you serve? With a schedule and a list of conditions or with a free spirit and an unforced heart? How will you share the Gospel? With a stammering tongue or with the voice of an ambassador speaking the words of the King? And who will you try to look like? Like a mannequin, or like the living and breathing Jesus?
The world, the church, and the glory of God are waiting.