A few weeks ago Jaclyn and I had some friends over for dinner. And if you’re anything like us, when you realize that people are coming over you go on a massive cleaning frenzy, right? I wish it wasn’t so…but hey, we’re human beings with 2 young kids that always feel the need to bring their toys into the living room. And as I was vacuuming the corners of the living room and every nook and cranny I could think of this thought struck me: Why is it that we can’t let people see how we really live?

Now, this isn’t to say that we live like slobs, we are very clean people. But doing all this crazy cleaning for friends coming over for dinner, who also have children of their own, who completely understand our situation, who are even very good friends that won’t judge us…why did we feel the need to do this?

I’m convinced that human nature is to make ourselves appear better than what we are willing to admit. When was the last time you joyfully admitted you were wrong about something? When was the last time you willingly let your spouse have the last word? When was the last time you admitted to yourself: Man, I just don’t have it all together.

But let’s think about this in the context of a Christian community: a Church. When was the last time you aired out your dirty laundry to the community of faith? James, the half brother of Jesus told the persecuted church of Jerusalem:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.        -James 5

Confess your sins to each other? We always talk about praying for one another…but confess my sin? I thought that stuff was between me and God? Apparently James thought otherwise. Ya see, for true community to take place, skeletons must be pulled out of the closet. For true community to take place, confession is required of us. That’s something that we in our American-privatized culture don’t desire,  understand, or see the need for.

What would your life look like if you confessed more often? Perhaps in a small group, perhaps one or two close friends, perhaps your spouse. It could start there. Can you imagine the freedom we, the Church, would possess? Paul told the Galatians to “bear one another’s burdens”, which we would think of as “coming alongside someone and helping them” right? Well, Paul actually uses a unique word for “bear” which means, literally, “to take someone else’s burden from them and carry it for them.” The whole idea of the Church being that you are to carry my burden while I carry someone elses, and someone else carries yours. So that no person is left carrying their own burden. In the case of this post, perhaps that can apply to the releasing of the weight of unconfessed sin.

I was sitting here with a candle burning next to me. I love to put the lid on a burning candle and let the flame slowly burn up the oxygen. It looks cool when it finally goes out because the smoke fills the entire empty space of the container. In my image-driven mind, I find this is what our lives are like when we cease to confess our sin to one another. There seems to be something missing in our life. A spark? A flame? And what we do is put a cap on it. Like Jaclyn and I cleaning before friends coming over, we don’t want people to see the dirt (the smoke?) in our lives. We want to appear normal and just like everyone else. We don’t want people to see that we’ve got smoke filling the empty places of our lives. So what are we gonna do? Are we content to let our lives be filled with smoke?

I think the hardest part of our lives is perhaps admitting when we’re wrong and when we don’t have it all together. The hardest part of our lives is deciding that we’re going to take the top off. We’re going to let our lives be seen for who we really are. No more masks, no more pretending. No more trying to be like someone else. No more worry about “fitting in” or gaining approval.” No more comparing our lives to others. No more chains that we so willingly pick up each morning and carry around on our shoulders hoping someone will notice. No more acting as though our lives are holy and perfect. It all comes down to a choice, doesn’t it? We all have but one life to live – so the real question is “How are you going to live your life? How do you want to live?” If you want to live the way Christ wants you to live, you know what that means? You’ll have to take the top off your life.

It’s funny that, at least thinking off the top of my head, we’re asked to do things “privately” very little throughout scripture. Jesus speaks of praying in private, fasting in private and doing some good works privately. But for the most part, the Christian faith is meant to be lived out in community – with other people. Even many New Testament letters weren’t written to a single person, they were written for entire church communities to read and study together! Their lives mingled with each other.

You know what’s great about taking the top of the candle? At first, the smoke continues to swirl around. It smells for a bit. But guess what…eventually the smoke dissipates and disappears. And after a little while longer – you can’t even tell it was ever there. The candle as well as the environment that surrounds it, is devoid of the smoke. What would your life look like, what would your life feel like…if you took the top off?