Third in series: Leave Bad Faith. Find Good Faith.
There is an interesting new fad that I keep seeing.
You probably have encountered it too, you know... Lying
And I mean like super brazen lying. The kind of lying that can be disproven with a 30 second spot check. The kind of lying that makes you instinctively do a double take. Like, the kind of lying that we used to think was reserved for 6 year olds, when they explain how some fantastical beast was to blame for eating all the chocolate cookies, all while their entire face is covered in chocolate.
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t remember adults lying in quite the brazen way that seems commonplace right now.
And I don’t think I have to sell anyone here on that being a bad thing. I think everyone in this room instinctively has negative reactions when we hear a public figure tell one of these lies.
And I think everyone in this room would also immediately embrace the encouragement to not lie like this in their own life.
But, what actually concerns me even more than the brazen lying is a general lack of honesty.
Let me tell you what I mean.
I think there is a big difference between not lying, and being honest. Once again looking at our current political cultural context We see this rise of alternative facts or hyper bias and partisan news. And the result is that someone can say something, present a statement about reality and then back it up with whatever arguments or version of facts that support what they say. And so in the most literal of terms, they were not lying. You can’t quite accuse them of lying - they asserted something that can be supported. However, I think we can all see it as far from being honest. And that is because, honesty is more than just not lying - it’s about transparency and vulnerability. I think of a time that Vince and I had some conflict this last year. It was supposed to be Vince’s day off, but I got a few emails from him, so I knew that he didn’t take the full day off. And I was feeling bothered by this. A few days later, at our next meeting. Vince could tell that I acting a little off. So, he asked me, “are you ok? Is everything ok between us.” The reality was, I was not feeling ok, but I also knew that the reason I was not OK had a lot more to do with me than it did with Vince So, I could have lied and said, “I’m fine,” No problem here.
But, I didn’t want to lie to Vince So, I made it about him. I told him that I was concerned that he didn’t take a day off. I was concerned about his life balance. And all of that is true. Vince is prone to over-working at times However, the reality was that it wasn’t about my concern for him, it was that I felt insecure that he was working on his day off, because it made me feel like Vince was working harder than me. And if he was working harder than me, I might be a less valuable pastor than him. The truth is that it wasn’t about him working on his day off at all. It was about me wanting to feel valued.
I didn’t feel valued for the work I did, I didn’t feel appreciated and so any perceived inequity, such as - Vince is working more days than me - felt like threat to me ever feeling valued. But, the beauty of this interaction was, after a second, I decided to to actually be honest with Vince, like really honest and tell Vince that I wanted to feel appreciated and valued.
And when I did, he turned around and said, I appreciate and value you. Then he named several things specifically that he appreciated about me, and specific ways he thought I brought value to the church. Holy crap - it was awesome. I actually got what I needed. I no longer felt upset, I no longer felt insecure. I felt closer to Vince, I felt more in touch with myself. You see, real honesty can do that. Not lying is great… But just “not lying” didn’t get me what being truly honest got me
I think of how the Apostle John talks about this very thing in a letter he wrote to one of the Earliest Churches -
1 John 1 (ESV) 5 This is the message we have heard from him (Jesus) and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Three quick point that jump out to me about that
1 Jesus is all about things being in the light.
Taking what is hidden in and bringing it into the open 2 If we say we are all good, we’re all put together with no need for grace, forgiveness, healing, guidance, we’ve got it all figured out Then we are just straight up lying to ourselves.
3 We are best served by taking all of those things we might want keep hidden and bringing them into the light.
That is how we get all that good stuff like healing and forgiveness and hope.
It makes me think of the truism - It’s not the crime, it’s the cover up
Like, we’ve all seen the political thriller where, if they would have just come clean from the beginning it would have just been bad publicity. But, in the cover up, actual crimes are committed.
Or, the romantic comedy where the main character lies about their past, and what ends up doing more harm is all the hiding they do to keep their past a secret. And you find yourself yelling at the screen. Just tell them!!!
Or I think of a friend who works at an university, and they were the overseer of about 2 dozen Spring Break trips that just happened.
And for most of these trips, the students use school vans.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, College students driving in unfamiliar places with a van full of their friends can go poorly sometimes.
She told me that on this spring break there were 8 accidents. Now, no one got injured and they are insured, they have policy in place for when this happens. So although it is annoying, it’s not really a big deal.
That is, if the students immediately report the accident. This last spring break one of the students failed to report it when it happened. In fact they tried to return the Van without telling anyone. And of course when they tried to return it, the massive gash in the side of Van made it obvious that an accident had occurred. Now, that student is in tons of trouble and might end up being liable for part of it. My friend is in trouble with her bosses, because she was the one ultimately responsible. It’s just a total mess. Not because there was a accident, but all because of the cover up.
Now, what John is saying is - it’s not about doing life perfectly. In fact, we are lying if we think that is even possible. No, It’s about owning that we are not perfect, that we do things we regret, that we are not, it’s in being honest, transparent and vulnerable that we find what we need in life.
It's worth stopping and considering for a moment the type of God John is implying he has relationship with.
This is not a shaming God, not a God we should feel afraid of, not a God we have to apologize to for not praying enough, not a God we have to perform for before he will spend time with us or do things for us. This is a God who is never scandalized by our "crimes", who never flinches or wants to leave the room when he hears about the things we're least proud of in our lives or when he hears about the doubts we have. We don't have to cover up anything with this God, Jesus.
John has experienced Jesus to be nothing but "faithful and just", as he says. We will never be disappointed when we come to Jesus honestly, even if that means doubts or things we’re not proud of. He will honor and respect every bit of honesty we bring to him. And if you feel that from the God of the universe (!), just think how that will increase your ability and courage to be honest in all of your relationships.
Many of us have not been sold a picture of God that sounds like John’s positive picture of God.
A few weeks ago I referenced a married couple that I know that has 5 adult children, and how amazed I am that all 5 of those children grew up going to church and that now they are adults, they all 5 still want to go to church -- all 5 have positive pictures of God that sound like John and (as a result) all five have vibrant relationships with Jesus . . And this is astonishing to me, because growing up going to church myself I can think of almost no other examples where a churchgoing family had all of their kids grow up and as adults have positive pictures of God and still want to go to church..
So, when I asked this couple, how on earth did you do this? ? And their answer was.. honestly They were always honest with their kids about their doubts and struggles and encouraged their kids to honest about their doubts and struggles. That is it. You see, those parents created a culture in their family that promoted honesty And they’re reaping the rewards of that
A little while back I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast - It’s two behavioral economists From the university of Chicago. And one thing they were talking about is that in any group. A family, a business, an organization.
People will generally act how we incentivise them to act
The family I just talked about, they had a culture that incentivised honesty. It was honesty that was celebrated, not perfection, or certainty.
The Apostle John’s relationship with Jesus -- it incentivised honesty However, what the research from this Freakonomics podcast found was that most organizations, most groups incentivize hiding, false promotion of self, and a lack of ownership of ones weaknesses.
These organizations say they want transparency and for their members to ask for help, or admit their mistakes. That is is their stated mission However, in practice they create cultures that incentivise the opposite. They way they rempremand people, they way they promote people, their incentive structure, the way they publicly celebrate people. They argued that this is a major problem in business because it stifles creativity, productivity, and innovation And it increases the likelihood of mistakes compounding on themselves. That rather than a mistake getting caught and changed early on in a process, it was more likely to be hidden and cause larger issues in the long run.
And it is my experience that many churches, although they say they want transparency and honesty, they just like these businesses, they incentivise hiding and self promotion. I think of a friend who told me about an experience at a church men’s conference Those putting on this conference seemed to be wonderful people that had admirable goals, namely to encourage men in their personal growth. But my friend had an interesting observation of this conference. Which was that the small group discussion questions given to them seemed to be encouraging performing, not being vulnerable.. Like… Do you think you should pray more? Do you think you should read the Bible more? . Well, what exactly is one supposed to say in such a situation? No? Maybe those are good ideas, but my friend was already at this church men’s conference, so he didn’t really need to be convinced that. What he was hoping for was a chance to share about struggles (in those things and other things) with some other men -- But this discussion, he realized, wasn’t incentivizing honest sharing about struggles. This discussion was incentivizing having the right answers about what they all should be doing. And I totally resonate with my friends experience, because I’ve been in tons of church settings like this. My experience is that in religious settings I will experience judgment and shame when I bring my struggles and doubts and failures and inadequacies to the table and I experience celebration and adulation when I have the (quote) “right answers”. And the result is much of my time in religious community has been spent trying to hide the dark and ugly parts of me and trying to highlight the beautiful and well-crafted parts of me
And that is just not the culture we want to have here at BLV. we want the culture of this church to incentivize honesty, vulnerability, and transparency. Because that is what we see reaping rewards in people’s lives To do this, though, we all need to be in on it together I think that begins with Vince and I certainly and the other leaders in this church We have to hold ourselves accountable to not incentivizing performing. To pose questions that encourage honesty, not that are searching for “a right answer”. To NOT just tell stories of our victories, triumphs or arrivals, but also stories of our struggles, questions and doubts But there are ways we all impact this --For example, We have to commit to trying to navigate our own emotions when we feel scandalized about what somebody else is doing in their life. Feeling scandalized by other people’s behavior is going to happen in any group of people -- a community like this, a workplace, an extended family, even a married couple But The reality is if you are feeling scandalized by something that somebody else is doing it probably has a lot more to do with you and your own fears and insecurities and judgments than it does that person. my experience is that in churches there is a massively out of balance tendency for people to error on the side of judgment There are absolutely cases where we have relationship and trust built in where holding another accountable or challenging each other in an area that concerns us would be appropriate, helpful But the truth is the majority of the time you would want to make a statement about somebody else’s behavior or belief you are not in enough relationship with that person to responsibly bring it to them, don’t know enough about their story or what’s going on with them to bring it to them in a way that’s helpful, or you’re just wrong and don’t realize it. We need to create a culture where we are each honestly assessing ourselves before we look to assessing the lives of other people. And if we all really are honestly taking a fearless personal moral inventory, then we would be spending so much time working on our own stuff, that we just wouldn’t have enough left over to worry about other people’s Lastly, if we want to create a culture where honesty is incentivized we have to be a community where gossip just doesn’t happen. Anytime somebody else’s life choices or personality flaws or mistakes become the fodder for conversation, honesty and transparency is deincentivized. If we can do this, the opportunity and reward is huge. Not only does this community become a place that people love being involved, but this community becomes a place for people experience transformation support healing Grace hope, and take that into their other communities: workplaces, families, marriages. And this community becomes a place where people experience the God the Apostle John wrote about… not some shaming, finger-wagging God.
So, I want to end here by praying for us, that God would show us what honesty could look like for each of us right now.
Of course what it could look like here at BLV But also at work With our family and in our relationships That we would be a community full of people who are actually getting their needs met because we are honest enough to admit what those needs are
Stand with me