By Mike Genung
Mandisa is a Christian singer who won two Grammy awards last month. However, she didn’t attend the awards ceremony; she gave the following as one reason why on her blog:
“Both times I have gone to the Grammys I have witnessed performances I wish I could erase from my memory, and yes, I fast forwarded through several performances this year; but my reason is not because of them, it’s because of me. I have been struggling with being in the world, not of it lately. I have fallen prey to the alluring pull of flesh, pride, and selfish desires quite a bit recently. … I knew that submerging myself into an environment that celebrates those things was risky for me at this time.”
I love it! Hearing this kind of transparency from a believer, especially one in the public eye, is refreshing.
We in the church are constantly preaching at each other. Christian radio airwaves are filled with it. Look at the Facebook and social media world, and you’ll see believers who are quoting Scripture or ascending their mini-pulpits and sermonizing or pontificating about the issue of the day. Some even get hostile as they argue about how they think things should be done. But when’s the last time you ever saw someone post about how they’d blown it, or were struggling with a certain sin, or God had corrected them in some way?
A man or woman who has the courage to let God shine through their cracks and faults grabs my attention. I learn from broken people. Through their weaknesses, God shows me what humility looks like. He teaches me through the lessons He taught them, and encourages me to be transparent like they are. He challenges me to stay grounded in the reality of my brokenness and stay away from pride.
I relate to broken people because I’m a mess, just like they are. I fight with the same siren call of the world that Mandisa does: pride, lust, anger, selfishness, love of the world and its toys, and the temptation to buy stuff I don’t need. I don’t always have a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” like it says in 1 Corinthians 13. Sometimes I just want to be about the business of pleasing me.
I think there are many in the church who yearn to see what a real Christian looks like, faults and all. We want to know that it’s safe to be broken, and how to navigate the sin and sex-charged minefield of our culture while battling the evil sin nature that we’re all stuck with. Without their realizing it, a man or woman who has the courage to speak through their brokenness is showing us the way.
Think about the problem with porn. What will minister and help you more, a pastor who teaches on Scripture and, in essence, says “the Bible says lust is wrong, don’t do it,” or a man who stands up and says, “I nearly destroyed my life with sexual sin, and these are the steps God gave me to find freedom and healing”? The Bible says we are to “preach the word, convince, exhort and rebuke,” (2 Timothy 4:2) so this doesn’t mean our pastors should stop teaching.
But we know from Scripture that God shows us every side of His people, including the ugly parts. Peter is a prime example. His story of denying Jesus three times gives me abundant hope, because if God can forgive Peter for that and then use him as powerfully as He did, He can use me.
What if some of our pastors started sharing their struggles with lust, porn, anger, or pride? (Have you ever heard of a pastor confess their struggles with porn?) What kind of effect would this have on their flocks? What if we started seeing more Christians who were willing to put it out there like Mandisa did and admit they’re struggling in their walk with God, perhaps with doubt, anger, worldliness, or some other sin?
This will be intimidating for some. Their carefully manufactured world will start to get a little shaky; taking a hard look inside is something they avoid like the plague. The walls of pride go up, and they shut down. One pastor friend of mine told me that when he shared the sexual sins of his past to his congregation that it felt like everyone stonewalled him. Some people can’t handle the transparency of others because it threatens their Good Christian mask.
But I also know from experience that God shines through the cracks. Blazing Grace wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made a royal mess out of my life and God picked up the pieces and made something new. Over the years many have told me that God blessed them through the cracks of my life and the lessons God provided along the way.
When the world sees us pretending that we don’t struggle with lust, pride, selfishness, anger, or a host of other sins, we look like giddy Polyannas who aren’t grounded in reality. Hypocrites. But when God’s people step forward and say, “we struggle with lust… half of our men are looking at porn… many of our marriages are hurting… we choose pride over humility all the time… sometimes we damage the cause of Christ as much as we help it,” now we are no longer hypocrites because we’re confessing who we are – broken people in desperate need of the grace and power of God. Instead of Polyannas, the outside world sees a group of people who are no longer faking it or pretending they’re something they’re not.
The biggest impediment to the church taking off the mask of hypocrisy is pride. There are some who care more about maintaining a false reputation than they do truth and what is pleasing in God’s eyes. Our reputation should be broken people who still struggle with sin, yet are redeemed by the grace of God and blessed to be His sons and daughters.
So the next time you’re on the internet or social media, or are talking with the friend, or teaching your congregation, remember, God shines through the cracks. Preach through your weaknesses.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2 Corinthians 12:9