The church is a strange organism. The church is a strange mix of divergent people who choose to live together. The scriptures tell us that we are one body with many members. We are the family of God, and we are brothers and sisters together. Now, I hear that there are two things that you don’t talk about with your family: religion and politics. We’re not going to get into politics. Religion will be enough for us, today.
The church is too polite for its own good. Or another way to say the same thing is the church is too coward for its own good. Now this is probably a tad bit harsh, but this is how the church needs to be: a tad bit harsh. I actually believe the church should be a place of uncomfortable honesty.
Now there two extremes that need to be avoided in church communication. The first is what a friend of mine refers to as “Christian niceities.” This is the too polite for your own good communication. The type of communication that believes that true love never hurts anybody. I used to think like that. When Heather and I first started dating, I didn’t want to do or say anything that would hurt her, but that led me down to a few possible options: lie, stretch the truth, or stay silent. We all know those don’t enhance a relationship, but many of us operate out of a “do no harm, no matter what” philosophy. This make work in the doctor’s office, but it does not work in relationships, especially those in our family.
The next danger is loose-cannon rudeness. This is what happens when one person makes their opinion, a self-inflated, ego-driven truth. We have been around these people. Honestly, we don’t like these people. (Sometimes we are these people, but let’s not go there.) They will say what they want to say and not care who it hurts. They will roll-over people instead of working with them.
Uncomfortable honesty is somewhere in the muddled middle between these two. Uncomfortable honesty attempts to resurrect the cliche phrase, “speaking the truth in love.” The truth is often uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable when pain is brought to the table. It’s uncomfortable when sin is confronted. It’s uncomfortable when disagreements are aired in public. We must embrace this uncomfortableness until it becomes the norm.
Uncomfortable honesty must be incorporated with peculiar grace and loving trust. If we don’t show peculiar grace that embraces people as they are and shows forgiveness, then people might be afraid to be fully truthful, if they don’t feel that they will be accepted as they are. This means that the church must be a place that trusts one another. If you are confident that when you walk out of the room you will still be brothers, then you will not be afraid to say the potentially uncomfortable statement.
I think we would agree that honesty is the best policy. (Now, let’s agree that there are more appropriate times to be discuss some things. If somebody’s mom just died, it’s probably not the best time to tell them that their leadership has seemed spiritually flat.) John’s gospel talks about how Jesus came to bring grace and truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that the truth shall set us free. The truth is vital to the kingdom of God. As members together in the kingdom, we are called to deliver truthfulness, uncomfortably. We should be brutally honest, but communicate it with such grace that the brutalness of our statement dissolves in uncomfortableness. Such a truth does not put us on the defensive (rarely do good things happen in communication when one or more parties are defensive), but they enable us to have the same foundation in which we are to live out our lives together.
The funny thing about uncomfortable honesty is that the more it happens the less uncomfortable it becomes. It will become part of our church’s culture. A culture where truth and grace are valued. A culture where the truth is spoken with love, in love, and for love.