I would like to begin with a question. It is a simple question, but one that may not be easy to answer. I am convinced that it is also an essential question that demands an answer if you are to grow into Christlikeness. I mean, truly, your spiritual growth and life depends on the answer you give to this question. It is the question that I would like to ask every single last one of you if I had the chance to sit across from you and if I could guarantee that I would get an honest answer. So let’s imagine I was sitting with you and looking you in the eye and you had to give me the truth. How would you answer this question: “Who, with the exception of God, knows you?” Now I am not asking how many people call you their friend or acquaintance or even brother or sister in Christ. I am asking, “Who is the person that you have invited into your life with whom you have purposed to be totally vulnerable and exposed in every area of your life with the expectation that they will do all they can to point you to Christ?”
Do you have someone or maybe even a group of people that come to mind? I hope so. Your spiritual life depends on it. It is burdening to me to consider how many people sit in our congregation week in and week out and yet are completely unseen, unknown, in spiritual trouble and no one is aware. This is even true of people that regularly attend a growth group or are involved serving in a ministry maybe even in a leadership capacity. We are good at being hidden in plain sight. Even now someone is reading this and saying to themselves, “yep, this is me.”
“One of the greatest hindrances to transparency is the fear of how someone will react if you tell them what is going on in your heart.”
Now there are many factors in a person’s life that lead them to pursue anonymity or feign transparency. It would be profitable to talk through at length all those factors. But in this article I would simply like to point out 2 simple realities that if grasped will help nurture a culture of honesty and transparency in your life and in the church.
One of the greatest hindrances to transparency is the fear of how someone will react if you tell them what is going on in your heart. This is understandable. The sin in our life can be ugly and destructive. We like the reputation that we have worked to establish and seek to protect it with all our might.
The problem is that the person who clings to their reputation has a short memory. He has forgotten where he came from and indeed where we all came from. Look at these scriptures: Titus 3:3 says this, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” (NASB) Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (NASB)
These passages were written to remind believers of where they came from. And do you know what they tell us? Get this—we all came from the same place. We are all by nature children of wrath, even as the rest of mankind. Remembering this is important for the whole church because it will help cultivate transparent relationships with one another. How exactly does this realization nurture transparency? In this way: at the heart level we are all the same. While you may tell me something about your life that disappoints me or brings hurt upon others, there is nothing that you can tell me that will shock me. Why? Because I know my own heart and it is just like yours.
There is another realization that is essential to cultivate transparent relationships and in fact serves to give us the aim of transparency. That realization is articulated in Colossians when it says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
God is redeeming for Himself a people through His Son to purify them and present them holy before Him to the praise of His glorious grace. In short, He has not saved us to leave us in our sin, but to transform us. The goal then of transparency is not just to commiserate with one another in our sin—you will find this idea prevalent in many churches. Instead, the goal of transparency is to point one another to the truth of the gospel’s glorious end. Now, take a look at Hebrews 3, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Here we see that because we share in Christ together we must protect one another from sin’s deceitfulness. This is God’s design for transforming us into Christ’s likeness together.
While there is much more to say on the topic of transparency let us remember these two realities. We are all from the same past and in Christ we are all headed to the same glorious future. Let us live in light of these truths and be transparent for the sake of growing in Christlikeness!