My family and I love to play board games of all kinds, and the Christmas season all but guarantees that new selections to our game library will be forthcoming. One that has recently become a standard is built on the premise of discovering whether the person you are traveling with through a mafia-controlled town is in danger like you or the one looking to silence you. Like other games of skill, you are playing not only the game, but also the person across from you. Who are they? How will they respond to different situations? Can you discover their hidden identity...before it's too late?
Human beings have been learning to hide from the very beginning. It started in Eden after the Fall. We don’t always show all of who we are to everyone we meet… and for good reasons! Jeremiah tells us that the heart of a human being "is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?" (17:9, CSB). So part of hiding looks like pushing back against those sinful impulses, taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), and refusing to act them out in the world. This can be a deep, godly thing, and an intimate part of our walk with God.
But in other cases, hiding who we are looks like putting on a front for people around us. We are happy to present an image of ourselves that looks shinier and nicer and more kind and more generous than who we often are on the inside. There is a lack of correlation between our inner life and how we present ourselves. Sometimes it spills out in the way that we treat people in one area or space, with people in another space experiencing a whole different "side" of us.
Nobody likes a phony. Being genuine with people is a cardinal virtue of our culture these days, and people can smell inauthenticity a mile away. This creates problems for all of us. Sometimes those problems are with other people. But they're always rooted in a lack of right relationship with our heavenly Father. We have all sinned and deserve nothing from Him (Romans 3:23), but He calls us His family and invites us to live out that identity in the real world. Jesus was born, lived, died, and was raised so that this incongruity can and will be finally rectified when all things are put right someday. But this side of heaven, living out the family name "Christian" in every situation is a brave but impossible task to complete perfectly, as God commands us (Matthew 5:48). We can envision the ideal, but always fall short of achieving it. This in turn makes us appear to those around us as people who don’t often live out what we say we believe.
However, the depth of God’s love, grace, and mercy is deeper than our inabilities. Our failure to live out our Christian identity doesn’t automatically exile us from the family. Living in repentance, Jesus' challenge to follow Him remains, even in the aftermath of our failure, especially as a way forward, a meaningful life of forgiveness and restoration. What Jesus wants from us is a life that is fully integrated, so that who we are in every setting is authentic, true, and consistent.
As people of the truth, who side with the language of Jesus, we have to be authentically us wherever we go. There should never be a version of us who shows up in God‘s house, with another image that we display to the world for one reason or another. Jesus lived a fully integrated life. He was consistently HIM wherever He went. He lived His life with His Father, with His followers, and with the crowds openly, and He invites us to do the same.
God wants a strong relationship with you, one that carries over from times of being in His Word and with His people to your day-to-day life. He wants to transform you. He also wants you to live in community with other members of His family who will love you through every circumstance but also challenge you to grow in ways that will grow the Kingdom. All of this is not just for the benefit of His own family, but to all people who will join in the joy of knowing the goodness of a Father who loves unconditionally, gives generously, and always keeps His promises.
“What’s in a name?“ It’s a question I’ve been asking myself as I’ve considered an appropriate change in the name of our newsletter. I wrestled with that question a lot. It's a much more involved conversation than I have space for here, but if you’d like to hear the story and join me in that continued wrestling, I'm in! This is an open invitation to come have a cup of coffee with me and talk it through. I’m serious. Shoot me a message or call me and we’ll set it up.
For brevity's sake, here's the short version: at the heart of my internal conversation has been how to properly express what we want to be about as a church. What we have been about for decades, and how we need to reframe and refresh that mission as we move forward. To me, it looks like living a fully integrated life. Being open and honest about who we are and Whose we are, even the things we’d like to hide, and bringing the conversations that start in the four walls of the church building into our daily lives in ways that bless people around us and benefit the growth of God’s kingdom.
The great good news that Jesus would have us hear is that as we strive to discover the shape of that integrated life in a constantly-changing world, He doesn't change. His love, grace, wisdom remains consistent, even when we fail to be. His forgiveness for our missteps and mistakes is deep, and He stands ready to affirm us and cheer us on when we take bold steps to follow Him. His name for YOU remains, "Beloved," regardless of how well-integrated His love is in your life.When all is said and done, He remains the true Lord of the Church, and we can find true joy as we work with Him in the Kingdom as we learn what it means that...
Adventure is out there!