Why Not Just Admit It?
JANUARY 20, 2021
There is no more important attitude than identification.
The Creator has identified with his creatures. When the Scriptures tells the believers, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7), it is giving a significant key for reaching the world.
So Christians are to be like Jesus, right? Wrong. Or at least wrong in that many think it means being good and pure, working miracles, and being nice. Instead, it is about attitude. Having the mind of Christ is an attitude of identification with Christ and with others, especially those who are outsiders, in the same way Christ identified with his Father and with others.
Jesus told his disciples that he was sending them just as the Father had sent him, but there is a difference. Jesus sympathized with his followers’ weaknesses and could identify with them because he was temped just as they were. Believers are sent to sympathize with others’ weaknesses because we have been tempted just as they are and have yielded to the temptations in the same way others have. Jesus identified with weaknesses from his strength. A Christian’s identification is from weakness with weakness.
Identification with Sin and Weakness
If Christians want to speak and live truth to those who do not want to see it and hear it, the first place of identification is with their sin and weakness. That sounds like a violation of everything the Christian faith teaches, but it is not. It is at the heart of the only witness believers have.
Paul makes an oft-quoted and rarely believed statement in 2 Corinthians 12. Something was wrong with Paul that made him weak—a “thorn in the flesh.” Paul pleaded with God to remove his problem. God absolutely refused, and then said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Then Paul said, “Shut my mouth.” Well, not that exactly. Paul said that he would accept his weakness because “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
If the people we want to see and hear the truth believers live and know, it will never happen until unbelievers say, “You too?”
Am I suggesting that Christians confess their deepest and darkest secrets to the town gossip or the village atheist? Of course not. But if atheists do not know that believers have deep and dark secrets, we are living a lie. It is no wonder nobody wants to hear the truth we speak.
Identification with Need
Identification includes identification in areas of need, fear, weakness, and anxiety.
There are certain things Christians do not say publicly. And yet, the Scripture says that God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14), and that he will not break a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3).
Why not just admit it? Some people will, of course, demean believers because of their weakness, laugh at their failure, and turn away because of their need. But most people, believe it or not, will instead say, “You too?”
Identification with Doubt
There is also the identification of doubt.
The problem is that many Christians (myself included on occasion) give the impression that we do not have doubts, never wonder, and have no questions. If believers give that impression, they are simply kidding themselves and, thus, giving a false witness to everybody else. Of course, Christians have doubts. We believe in a lot of things that—were it not for the supernatural intervention of a supernatural God—would be insane. “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22). They still do, and sometimes faith seems quite foolish.
I have been walking with Jesus for a whole lot of years, and the outright doubts that I have had are largely in the rearview mirror. However, every time a baby dies, a woman is abused, a terrorist kills, an earthquake or tornado devastates a town, a father commits suicide, or cancer claims another victim, I wonder, ask the painful questions, and struggle with the doubts. I understand what C.H. Spurgeon meant when he said that God was too good to be cruel, too wise to be wrong, and that when he did not have answers, he should trust God’s heart. By and large, that is what I do. But sometimes it is really, really hard.
If Christians identified with the humanness of life, if we were honest about our doubts, and if we made our questions the stuff of our witness, there would be those who would think that we were fools or unsophisticated. But most would say, “You too?” That would be the beginning of a conversation. And who knows where that would lead?
Identification with the Normal
Contrary to some crazy stuff accepted as holy writ in some circles, Christians want (with maybe some exceptions) what everybody wants, they like what everybody likes, and they have desires similar to everybody else’s desires. In fact, because of the supernatural in their lives, believers want more. I’m not sure when Christians started denying that their desires are human, and in a whole lot of cases normal and good. So often they have the neurotic feeling that anything one enjoys must be sin and if one did not enjoy it, there is no way it could be sin. That is crazy.
Repeated studies show that Christians and unbelievers really do enjoy the same television programs, music, and movies. We shop at the same stores. We use the same technology, go to the same hairdressers or barbers, exercise at the same places, cry over the same kinds of tragedies, worry about the same financial problems, laugh at the same jokes, and enjoy the same foods as everybody else. Yes, we are to be different (1 Peter 2:9), but by and large, the difference is far deeper than what Christians sometimes call idols. Christians are different because of the way they love the unlovely, forgive the unforgivable, and care for those about whom nobody else cares. What if believers joined the conversation about pop culture and fads, and went to the neighborhood cookout without looking down their noses at the beer?
What if we were normal?
Unbelievers might not say it, but they would think it, “You too?”
And we never know where that could lead.
Adapted from Steve’s latest book, Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable.