Can Christian Community be too Personal?
___ posted January 31, 2012 by Matthew Green
Life with God presents is that it's too "touchy-feely", too emotional, and too personal. We heard just such a voice recently from a curriculum test group, and as a former card-carrying member of the "emotions get in the way" club, part of me still resonates with these people. For one thing, emotions aren't something we have much control over, so they can (and do) get us into trouble. For that matter, wearing your heart on your sleeve can be a good way to get that heart injured. Best to keep it inside the rib cage where it's got some protection and take care of the things that need to get done to fulfill God's work.
Alas, God pays attention to the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7) It matters to Him. The Hebrew "heart" meant the whole inner person: intellect, will, emotions, desires, dreams, and so on, and this is what He's keeping tabs on. Paul characterizes Jesus' ministry as one of reconciliation (Rom. 5:11, 2 Cor. 5:18-19, etc.). If reconciliation is the restoration of relationship, then the qualities that make up relationship are crucial. Care for one another and attachment and desire to know and share the hopes and dreams of the other person are things that bind people together.
This may be all well and good when it comes to you and God, but sometimes the rub shows up when we're asked to be personal with one another. God is good enough to keep confidences and not ridicule you for your emotions, but some find that trusting other people is less certain. Yet James urges us to confess our sins to one another (Jas. 5:16), and Paul commands us to celebrate with those who are happy and cry with the hurting (Rom. 12:15). How can we know one another's sins and hurts and joys unless we are personal with one another? The love we are designed to share with each other depends on being vulnerable and personal.
Of course, it's easy to stand in the electronic pulpit and blog about how we ought to be personal and emotionally vulnerable with trustworthy brothers and sisters, but it's another issue entirely when faced with the prospect of following through with it myself. The reality is that the parts of me that get hurt and anxious often don't want to be discovered or shared. When I've done something stupid, the last thing I want to do is to run to someone and say, "Look! Look! I've committed a sin!" If there's any running, it's away from people, not toward! If we're all called to share our hearts with one another, then I have to figure out what it is in me that doesn't want to do this. Knowledge that I'm supposed to isn't enough; I have to honestly look at my own reticence and the ways that I get around this. We all do.
What keeps you from being personal with God and others? For me, I think I find myself expecting people to lash out at me when what I'm really hoping is that they'll tell me it's okay. I'm scared. But what other options are there for participating in the love that God offers and asks His people to share?
What are you expecting of people? What are you hoping for?
One of the more common criticisms that you tend to hear about the spiritually formative kinds of things that ECSW's curriculum,