Have you ever been to a Bible study, Sunday School class, or small group that felt unwelcoming? Was it because no one spoke to you? Was it because there was no one close to your age? Was it because everyone seemed to know everyone already?
For me, groups at church feel the most unwelcoming when they lack honesty and transparency. Is this lack of honesty and transparency a sin, or is it just something that tunes me out? Well, the specific word “transparency” isn’t used in Scripture; but similar concepts are. Hypocrisy and honesty are often discussed in the Bible.
So, why do we as Christians have such a hard time being authentic—especially in the church setting?
The surface reason is that transparency is often awkward and uncomfortable, but I think there is more to the issue than just discomfort. I believe Christians have a hard time being transparent because other Christians are not transparent. I am definitely not placing all the blame for believers’ lack of honesty on others, but I do think believers would be more willing to share their struggles in a transparent atmosphere.
After all, in Bible study, we focus on answering the questions in the book. In Sunday School, we discuss prayer requests about our travels and job transitions. In small group, we talk about the weather, sports, or politics.
But, believers are not going to grow in their faith by talking about the weather, sports, or politics. On the contrary, believers are going to grow in their faith by sharing their current addictions, temptations, and sins.
I believe there are three main reasons why we should be transparent about our struggles:
1. Transparency is attractive to nonbelievers.
We’ve all heard non-Christians say that they don’t want to go to church or accept Christ because Christians are hypocritical. Often, we brush off comments like that and say, “Well, we can’t change. Sin is always going to be present in the church.”
This is true. On this earth, Christ’s bride won’t be free from sin. However, nonbelievers aren’t necessarily turned off by the sin they see in Christians’ lives. Rather, they’re turned off when Christians act holier-than-thou and attempt to hide their sin. Still, sin, no matter how hard we try to hide it, cannot be completely hidden.
What if, instead of just telling non-Christians to come to church or accept Christ, we also shared what we’ve been struggling with? After all, hypocrisy is basically saying one thing and doing another. So, what if we admit that we’re not perfect and that our need for Jesus doesn’t start and end with choosing to trust Him as Savior? What if we opened up about how we’ve been fighting temptation or struggling to overcome sin? Not only will that be attractive to nonbelievers because it shows them Christians are human (just like them), but it can also lead to a discussion about Jesus’ tremendous love and mercy in spite of our unrighteousness.
2. Transparency provides an opportunity to repent.
Jesus often described the Pharisees as hypocrites in the Gospels. He said they were “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) and noted that they had ignored “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Christians have been cleansed by Christ’s blood, but we’re still prone to act like Pharisees at times. Instead of acknowledging our struggles, we keep our mouths shut, or—worse—we act like we have no struggles.
In Hebrews 10:24-25, we’re told to fellowship so we can encourage each other. Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I’m not encouraged by self-righteousness and pride. Rather, I appreciate when a believer is willing to speak up and admit how he or she has sinned. When that believer shares his or her sin, it gives me an opportunity to examine my own heart and see what sins I need to confess. Thankfully, 1 John 1:9 (ESV) says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Though Christians are righteous in God’s eyes because of Jesus, we still sin because our flesh is still a part of us. When other Christians, especially at church, can swallow their pride and admit what temptations they haven’t overcome, we, too, can recognize the sin in our lives and seek God’s forgiveness.
3. Transparency creates accountability.
Encouragement among believers leads to accountability. Honestly, we can’t be held accountable if we don’t discuss why we need accountability. Likewise, we can’t keep others accountable if we don’t know why they need accountability.
Of course, not everything should be shared with everyone all the time. There is a time and place for certain struggles to be discussed. For example, it is probably inappropriate to open up about a pornography addiction with a Bible study group of 50 people. However, it would be more appropriate to share this with one or two close Christian friends.
When another Christian (or a few Christians) is aware of our sin, it can help us overcome that sin. With little reminders and nudges in the right direction, we’ll be less likely to continue in sin. Perhaps an accountability partner could be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a pastor, or a pastor’s wife.
Paul’s words to the Galatians sum up the issue of transparency perfectly: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).
Yes, Christians, we are nothing. We are only “something” because of Christ. Not because of our righteousness. Not because of our good deeds. Because of His grace.
Sadly, I think we forget that biblical fact, especially in the church. Instead of being self-righteous and trying to hide our sins, I want to encourage you to be transparent about your struggles. It can attract nonbelievers to Christianity, provide an opportunity to repent, and generate accountability.
Grace M. is a college student, a blogger, and a writer. She enjoys spending time with her family, chatting with friends, and baking sweet treats. She writes about the Christian life at Tizzie’s Tidbits of Truth.