Six years ago a friend of mine got married. She was completely ecstatic and elated to finally be with the man she adored. And she adored him. It seemed like there was NOTHING this man could ever do wrong. Totally untrue, but that’s the impression I got.
Every morning she came into work glowing with their newly married life, and when there was a controversy it took very little time for mending to begin. She could even gush about the beauty of their fights and conflict resolution.
Occasionally I was enchanted by their relationship, but more often, I was annoyed. I felt like it was only a matter of time before reality finally set in. She was wearing the rosiest colored glasses I’d ever seen.
What I didn’t realize is my friend was more of a realist than I ever was. Instead, I was a cynic, waiting for the inevitable calamity to strike and even relishing that finally both of them would see each other for who they were.
As I grew deeper in my friendship with them, I realized they did see each other. But instead of living in what I thought was “reality” they each showed up honestly and owned their personal need for Jesus and each other while nourishing the best qualities in the other.
It’s easy to see all the areas where someone needs to grow and make lists of where they need fixing. But, just because the fault-finding magnifying glass is easy and comes naturally doesn’t makes it right.
Think about it for a moment. Can you think of ONE person you couldn’t name ONE negative thing about?
There’s only one. Jesus.
Even though I chose the Jesus juke, stay with me.
Fault-finding is easy.
My generation (Millennials) boast true realism. We think we’re pioneering what it looks like to be transparent and authentic. But in the wake of our realism lie the damaged bodies of friends, churches, and family we’ve tread on to reach this holy authenticity.
We’ve held the fault finding magnifying glass up for the sake of transparency and confused edification for cynicism and criticism, cleverly disguising our criticism and cynicism as realism to make us feel better. How many “isms” can we really disguise?
Fault-finding is easy, and unlike my friend I can easily start dismembering a church service, a testimony, my parents, my friends, my romance, easily. And all in the name of edification.
When I look at who the fault-finders of Jesus’ day were, it was the Pharisees, and when I look at who Jesus criticized, it’s the Pharisees.
In the name of realism have we become modern day Pharisees?
Think about it for a second. What does a realist/cynic/critic do? They appoint themselves to a place of expertise and expertly (I write sarcastically) examine and challenge their subjects, listing what’s wrong, and seldom highlighting what’s right. They avoid their own faults, shortcomings, weaknesses, and need for Jesus.
Jesus makes bone chilling statements about Pharisees in Matthew 23. Pharisees interest in sharing good news is for their personal benefit, not the glorification of God. Pharisees make salvation hard for other people, they corrupt converts, trivialize and neglect true relationship with God and others, they look to their own interests, they avoid sanctification and transformation from within, they make themselves look good on the outside when they are inwardly rotting, and murder God’s prophets.
Pharisees hide their need for Jesus behind a big, fat, fault finding magnifying glass enlarging everyone else’s shortcomings.
Let that sink in. How many Pharisees are being perpetuated today as transparent “realists”?
And then I start thinking about what we were intended to look like.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” - Hebrews 10:24-25
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:34-35
Even when I look how Jesus confronted sin, it was with questions, parables, and gentle words. He bends down and draws in the sand, asks the woman at the well questions, and has a compassionate intellectual conversation with Nicodemus.
Now am I saying we don’t confront sin?
But, I am wondering if our body looked like this. If we were constantly encouraging, speaking life and love, gently stirring up good works, laying the foundation of relationship when the time to lovingly confront sin if it would be like a cool drink of water.
A couple years ago a friend of mine shared his story. It was a devastating story of unfaithfulness to his wife, obsession with money, and looking good to everyone around him while he felt his soul siphoning away. Jesus finally brought him to a place where he couldn’t strive anymore. At a Starbucks in Texas he showed honestly up with an old man he didn’t know and exposed his deep hurts and wounds.
“Do you know why I let myself be known?” he asked me. I shook my head. “I knew Dave (the man he met with) was a man without condemnation. He didn’t need to condemn me, because he knew I’d already condemned myself.”
That struck me to my core. What does it take to be a person without condemnation?
It takes me being honest about my personal need for Jesus. I lay down the fault-finding magnifying glass on everyone else, and see myself and the world with naked eyes.
It’s a similar chord to the one Dan Jarrell once struck that we don’t get others to grow by confronting their condemned parts, but when we encourage, cultivate, and nourish each other, that’s when we surrender to the work Jesus is doing in those around us. And that's when we start to see radical change.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” - Ephesians 4:15-16
“And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” - 2 Timothy 2:24-26
What I know is the relationships that have lavished me with love and encouragement and gently rebuked me when necessary, these are the relationships that give me life, model Jesus, and the ones I trust.
These relationships are honest, but not just honest about my shortcomings, they’re honest about our mutual need for Jesus. Men and women who have shown up honestly with me in their deep hurts, wounds, and need. These are the people that give me the freedom to show up honestly about my need. These are the relationships I know are for me and not themselves. These are the relationships that nourish what Jesus is doing in me.
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23: 11
It takes courage and humility to lay down the fault finding magnifying glass and start being honest about need.
One week with Young Life gals I felt compelled to show up with my deep hurts and super duper honesty about my need for Jesus. I looked around the room at girls whose eyes were filled with tears. I allowed my Young Life girls to see me for who I was, a person with need. That night, Jesus began moving, and we dove into the deep end of relationship. I got greater access to parts of their hearts, and we’ve begun the foundation of relationship that makes way for living in obedience to Jesus.
My married friend does that. She lives in a place of need for Jesus and empowers the work of the gospel in her life and her husband’s. It isn’t putting on rose-colored glasses or holding up the fault finding magnifying glass either. It’s naked eyes that are bold enough to see what Jesus is doing in her and him, cloaked in love and gentleness, and ready for the practical work of the gospel.
If you were honest, really honest, could you say you don’t have any signs of Pharisee in your everyday?
So today I ask you, what will it take to remove the tainted glass from your eyes? To start seeing your loved ones with the eyes of Jesus, marveling at the work he’s doing in them and you?
And I pray we shed this false reality we’re living in, start being honest about our need and nourishing each other in life.