When does being a good role model require that we admit our sins?
Stephanie and I work hard to present the best possible Christian model for our people group to see and emulate. We make sure we are gracious as possible, as forgiving as we can be. We take very seriously our responsibility to be “the only Bible people might ever read.” We strive for holiness and purity. In short, we are the best Christians we can be both for God and for the sake of those who are observing us.
We’ve always been willing to admit our mistakes to the people here. If we react badly to something, we apologize and make it right. If we happen to do something publically that was not proper, we do not shy away from facing up to our flaws. Something that has never come up, though, has been the question, “Have you ever commited this specific sin?” No one has ever asked us about specific past failures, not in all our time on the field. The assumption seems to be that we were born as fully-formed Christians straight from our mothers’ wombs, despite our personal testimonies in which we refer to our pre-Christ days.
Recently, Stephanie was spending time with Lupe, a new Deaf Christian. Lupe hungers and thirsts, in the most obvious ways, for a greater knowledge and understanding of Christian life. Steph is fortunate enough to spend a few hours a week visiting, counseling, and discipling Lupe. Last week, Lupe took an asolute left turn in the middle of a lesson and asked Stephanie, “In your life, have you ever struggled with __________? I mean, that’s a sin, right?”
This was no frivolous question. Lupe has never observed a Christian over time. She only knows other fairly new Christians. She asks the simplest questions that illustrate her total lack of understanding of certain aspects of Christianity. Therefore, when she asked Steph about the comission of a specific sin, I think it would be safe to say that there was a pretty clear, if hidden, point behind the query.
As it so happens, Stephanie has indeed commited the sin of __________. In fact, __________ remains one of her great individual failures. She has dealt with that particular sin. She has addressed its place in her life. Many discussions have occured between us about it, discussions that centered on understanding the unique drives and motivations behind the sin of _________. And yet….almost no one knows about it. Sin is a shameful thing, don’t ya know.
Steph is not exactly proud of her sins, of course, and this particular one is especially distasteful for her. In order to avoid embarrasment and (since Lupe is a fairly open individual) to avoid having the entire community know what she had done all those years ago, it would have been quite easy to deny the whole thing and move on.
Using one sin to cover up another; glad there’s nothing in 2 Samuel about that.
It took a few minutes, but Stephanie admitted to Lupe that yes, she had failed in that particular way. She talked about the sin itself and about how she approached God for help. She bluntly explained that she was a bit embarassed about it, even after all these years.
Lupe’s response to knowing just how fallible Stacy was followed a precise pattern.
1. Absolute shock.
2. About 3 seconds of thought.
3. 30 minutes of non-stop talk about the struggles she has had and continues to have in that same area.
As Stephanie later shared this with me, something became very obvious to us: Steph’s transparent admission of a shameful moment in her life was a beautiful thing.
The value of transparency is not a new lesson for us. However, Stephanie has always applied it to the near-present tense: today she did this, but yesterday she did that. In today’s present tense, Stacy is much closer to the Christian ideal than she was when she went off the rails so badly, therefore it is far easier for her to admit her most recent failures. In the old days of her unredeemed life, Stephanie’s sins were much more colorful, shall we say, and are harder to haul into today’s light for examination. And yet, that’s exactly what she did.
Too often, Christians are willing to admit failures, but only in the vaguest possible terms. “Yes, I, too, was a sinner who did bad things and failed to respect the Lord, but Jesus saved me from my many sins and I have left behind those days of iniquity.”
Would such an answer have helped Lupe? Nope.
I believe Lupe is a stronger Christian today than she was last Thursday. I think she realizes there truly is an abudance of grace, even enough to cover the sin of _________. This gives her hope. This encourages her. It edifies and uplifts her in ways that any other answer would have failed to do.
And if it takes a little temporary shame in order to produce such an eternal change, then perhaps that’s a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.