Letting Ourselves Be Real

I just finished an amazing book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One of the quotes that hit me between the teeth was: “The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.   The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.   So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.   We dare not be sinners.”

This is still true, even as the modern evangelical movement has come out of the crazy Jesus freaks, even as half our churches are filled with people who have “interesting” pasts – we all pretend to be, in this moment, perfectly pious.

It is as if we don’t believe the statement that failure is not in falling down, it’s in staying down. It’s as if we don’t believe the preachers when they tell us that the difference with living with a sin nature vs. living in sin is the difference between a bad moment and a bad life. We have too much at stake to be real…

I’m not advocating that we confess our sins to all and sundry. That would be to wallow in them, that would be to go back to the people we were before Jesus washed us in His blood and made us new. We *have* been declared holy, we *have* been declared righteous. But we need to be real – real about our flaws, real about our goals, real about our strengths. We need to look in that mirror (James 1:23) and see who we are – not to walk away and forget, but to get to work and change.

We need to be real with each other because there is no end to that work, there is no end to that change, this side of the grave (or the Rapture, Lord willing). We need the accountability. And we need the love.

Sometimes we lose touch with who we are. We can get off-track, covetous of the gifts of other Christians, covetous of the things of this world. One thing leads to another, and suddenly we’re running a race we weren’t meant to run – and that inevitably leads to a lot of falls.

That’s one of the things that a community can provide – it’s a touchstone to keep yourself on track. You need people who love you who can speak into your life and say, “why are you walking this way?” Not everyone. Again, if you surrender to the desire to have “everyone” speak into your life, you’re chaining yourself to the past. Never let someone who doesn’t love you, who doesn’t know who you are and what you can do, tell you who you are.

The one who does love you, that person can remind you of things you forget about yourself. Hopefully you have several people – the one who hopes for you, sees possibilities, encourages you in your goals. The one who loves who you are and reminds you to be the best you can, who keeps you striving for your best self. The one who you encourage – and in their growth, you see your past – and your future. We are meant to live in community, in family.

But we are meant to be REAL in that community, or it’s just a game of status, of words. I think we’ve had enough of that – enough of the game of churchgoing hypocrites, so desperate for status that they hide their hearts. I know the World has had enough of that – so much so that that is all they see when they see any one of us.

Keep striving to improve. Keep striving to make yourself a more fit vessel. YES. But strive for the sake of God – not for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses. We need you in the fight – but it’s YOU we need, not a simulacrum. YOU have a job to do – your job. Who are you? What is it that you do?

Maybe it’s time that you find out – and maybe, just maybe, a community of people who love you might help you find your way.


  1. What an excellent post! Somewhere I have a nasty, spiteful essay I called “Rude Questions to Episcopalians.” It is so hateful I only ever showed it to one person, who is now dead. In “Rude Questions,” I ask all kinds of things of the kind of professional class uber progressive Christians I then went to church with. I’m not asking them doctrinal questions but questions about class, about why won’t they even admit that my husband and I weren’t quite good enough for them? Do they want to hear about our struggle with our son-in-law, the criminal, the one in prison, or do they just want to listen to the man preach about his prison ministry? Will they ever sing a gospel song? Do they realize how much I too am tolerating them and their ways and their, to my ear, dreary, DREARY music? But it was much more than differences of social class – it was everyone pretending to be perfect in that old time uber progressive way.

    The music in the Anglican Church in North America parish we now attend is much better, and the willingness of the people to “be real” in the way you’re talking about is so much more it isn’t funny. But still the seed of it is there, in some of us more than others, maybe in me most of all with my class defensiveness.


    • Real is a lot of things… yes, the “striving for higher things” class has a fear of dropping down in to what they “once were” or “could be”. The fear of the unknown is also real – I mean, do they know anyone else with criminal relatives? That first person is a little scary. The 5th, not so much. Their weirdness is their real… but it would be good if they had someone that loved them enough to call them out on it.

      No one wants to have to pretend to be what they are not. :/

      I like my old Baptist hymns better than most of what we sing at church now too, but c’est la vie- I love my church with my whole heart.


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