There is a balance that all communities of people try to navigate. On the one hand, all of us value friendships and relationships. But on the other hand, everyone has been injured by someone that they have a relationship with. We have all been let down and sinned against, thus leading to a lack of trust. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, humans have struggled with trusting and entrusting in one another. Among the Christian community, the balance can be even more challenging.
We are told in places like James 5:16 that we are to “confess our sins to one another” and in Galatians 6:1 to “bear one another’s burdens.” Embedded in these commands is the call for a different type of community which surpasses relationships that just center around discussing sports and the latest political scandal. It assumes a level of trust, intimacy, and relationship that is very difficult to find outside of the Christian Church.
It must be found in the church because, as believers in Christ, we seek to deal with sin and we know that others must be involved in the process in order for it to be dealt with effectively. No Christian is able to grow into maturity without the aid of others. Sunday sermons alone will not do it. Reading books alone will not do it. Community, at all levels, is an essential element to the growth process. At the core of that community are deep friendships that are genuine and authentic; but most of all seek to be safe in sharing a mutual trust and confidence.
When we expose our sins to each other, we let down our guard and we let others in. However, there is an inherent danger in doing that. We start to question:
What if they don’t like me?
Can I really be sure that they will love me?
What if they judge me?
How will they use the information?
What if they use this information to hurt me?
These questions are natural and spring up for anyone who reveals who they truly are to another. That is why we have sought to make Faith Church West a place for safe sharing in confidence (Core Value #1). We want to be able to expose our sin not just to share it for the sake of getting it out there, but because recognizing it is essential in our progressive sanctification.
If we believe that it is not only valuable but essential to the growth process, then what does it look like to be vulnerable in this way as we share community with one another?
The Making of a Safe Place
First, be willing to go first. Often the thing that prevents groups from sharing about sin and the struggles of life is that no one wants to be the first to bring it up. What is often needed is someone that will take the leap of faith and go first and share their struggles and open up their heart. Admitting the need for help and that you are a sinner too will create an environment that encourages sharing of struggle. Creating a safe place where sharing in confidence is valued means a willingness to go first.
Second, cultivating a safe place for sharing means that you will choose not to gossip or judge those who are willing to share. Proverbs 18:8 reminds us, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels.” In our worldly flesh, we all love to listen to gossip. Gossip ‘tastes’ good to the ears, but gossip destroys community. Gossip presents judgment that creates an unwillingness to share within the community, thereby creating distrust. When we refrain from gossip and judgement, we build trust that allows us to grow more like Christ.
Thirdly, being a safe place requires reciprocity. It can be easy to allow others to share what has been going on in their life and then to pretend that you are doing just fine. When others choose to share about what God is doing in their life and how they need to change to be like Christ, then we need to encourage this by following suit. Leaving someone out there high and dry leaves them feeling vulnerable to distrust in the relationship and destroys the desire to be transparent within the community.
Finally, being a safe place for sharing in confidence means that we are not just content to expose our sin and be done with it. It can be tempting to air our dirty laundry and hope that it will be enough. In a few instances, it will be enough to expose the sin and be done with it, but many times there is more work to be done. A trust between friends within the community is required in order that each other can further exam the heart issue. Asking questions that further expose truth and guiding one another to Christ, even when it’s hard, is necessary in the process of growth and progressive sanctification. Therefore, a community that is a place for safely sharing information means entrusting oneself to another, in confidence.
The church is built on many pillars that are essential for it to thrive. These pillars are things like faithful preaching of the Word, purity of the body, and evangelism of the lost; but it also includes the pillar of community, and the handling of sin within the community. In order for this to happen, we must build and cultivate a safe place trusting one another when sharing our sin so that it can be productively and effectively dealt with. Doing so is paramount to the success of the church and its community.