I often have people tell me that despite feeling welcome when they spend time with the HUT church, they still feel inadequate: that they are missing the “Ive-got-life-all-together” gene that everyone else seems to have. If only they knew that many others would say the same thing.
Sometimes people feel this alienation from others, because they have not allowed the reality of what Christ’s cross achieved, to act upon their conscience – and free it from condemnation! But at least as often, it is because the rest of us are really good at putting the best “version” of ourselves forward in our lives with other believers.
Bonhoeffer had these words to say:
“There can be no genuine knowledge of sin that does not lead me down to this depth. If my sin appears to me to be in any way smaller or less reprehensible in comparison with the sins of others, then I am not yet recognising my sin at all… How could I possibly serve other persons in unfeigned humility, if their sins appear to me to be more serious than my own? If I am to have any hope for them, then I must not raise myself above them. Such service would be a sham.”
Bonhoeffer is not suggesting that we should dwell morbidly on our own failings and sin. The blood of Christ has freed us from i) the threat of judgement and ii) the illusion that we have ever been “good”, in God’s sense of that word. Bonhoeffer is instead warning against ever thinking of our sin in comparison with others. Wherever such comparative thinking manifests itself amongst a community of believers, there will be a corresponding unwillingness to serve the other. This could equally apply to the way we view unbelievers, in whose footsteps we once walked.
The solution is not so much to have a community where everyone resolves to dwell upon their failings, but one where everyone resolves (both publicly and daily) to delight in how big-a-difference God’s grace continues to make for them.