And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:31)
It has become known as “The Golden Rule.” Many religions have a leader who have expressed a similar teaching as Jesus did in Matthew and Luke. And Jesus repeated it in even stronger terms by saying that second only to the greatest commandment of loving God with all of our hearts was that we should love others as we do ourselves. And that’s what the Church really is. A community of people striving to love God and others honestly and completely.
This morning in my Life Group, we talked about what it’s supposed to look like to “admonish one another.” It’s not an easy instruction to apply on a regular basis. As the giver, we tend to either come across as judgmental or we are so uncomfortable with giving someone a truly warranted warning, we say nothing to them. And because we are all predisposed to hide behind a mask of goodness, we don’t receive much admonishment because we haven’t been very honest about our struggles with sin.
Years ago when I lived in Washington, a friend of mine said something very casually to me while we were chatting one day that has had a profound impact on me: “I have a lot of history and baggage that I don’t constantly rehearse. But I have discovered that as I grow in my Christian relationships, there is a huge difference between privacy and secrecy.”
I’ve thought a lot about that statement in the years since, and I have come to believe that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a bad one for Christian discipleship. Certainly being a good spouse or friend means we do not share things we have experienced or been told in private. And we don’t want to be that person who reveals something that’s supposed to be a surprise to someone. But those are quite different than consistently living a life of hidden actions, thoughts and motives. Intentionally portraying ourselves to be something we know we are not is a dangerous way to live because we can often begin to “believe our own press.” As Christ followers, part of being in community with others is possessing a willingness to humbly confess our sins to God and, when necessary, to one another. (1 Jn 1:9, James 5:16)
Distinguishing between privacy and secrecy happens when we consider the differences of a life of hypocrisy and one of integrity. We can recognize the difference when sin occurs. The hypocrite hides his sin and intentionally appears to be a person he is not. But a person of integrity readily admits his sin and confesses he’s not yet the person he wants to be. While we all have our moments of hypocrisy, doing to others as we would have them do to us means striving for all of our relationships to be truthful. Really loving others involves loving and desiring the truth … for ourselves and for them. (1 Cor 13:6)
I personally know Christians who do not want to be part of a small accountability group because they do not want to be confronted about their secret lives. I am very aware that there can exist a critical spirit of judgment and condemnation in many Christian circles today. Loving others means that there should be plenty of space for grace and forgiveness within accountability. But if we want genuine freedom in Christ, it’s important to find people with whom we can honestly and openly share ourselves, and expect from them the same. In this, we discover a wonderful way to walk together in repentance and obedience. And even when it comes time for the giving or receiving of “admonition”, living authentically with and before each other can help us to become who we really desire to become.
Though it may be much easier for us to settle into living the Christian life on an island, it’s much richer to live it in an authentic community of committed followers of Christ. And when we love each other for who we are truly becoming, we find ourselves becoming people who truly love God more!
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to His disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3)