There’s no need to pretend we’re perfect or that we have it all together. There’s no need to wear the mask of competence and independence and unwavering success. Jesus is the one who is truly impressive, and he has followed all the rules and done everything right in our place. He is the one who is always good and pure and generous, who never shades the truth. All of his goodness and uprightness has been credited to those who believe.
You can either be impressive or you can be known. You have to pick one.
I’ve heard variations of this quote over the years. They’ve bounced around my head, and I’ve now seen a couple of sources pointing to Ray Ortlund for its origin. I think this is a central truth of vibrant Christian community.
The more we try to impress others, the less we will be known. Conversely, the more we allow ourselves to be known by others, the less impressive we will be. Like a playground see-saw, these realities move in opposition to one another.
Wanting to be Loved
We all have a fundamental desire to be loved by those who matter most to us. This impulse is not identical for everyone, but some expression of this desire seems so widespread as to be programmed into us.
And while we may put on a mask to be tolerated or liked by some, in order to be loved, we need to be known. We want those we care about to stay committed to us even when they know the darkest shadows of our hearts.
This, after all, is what we have in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his love God has pursued and changed us; we must never think God’s love is the result of our faith or some sliver of obedience. While we were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)!
Jesus was not persuaded to save us by our kindness or humor. He didn’t observe our gentleness or intelligence and then sign up for the incarnation and the cross. We did not impress God into forgiveness.
No. God knew us and loved us.
So, what we seek from other people is a human version of what we already have from God. Stated from the other angle, what we welcome people into with our Christian love is a faint shadow of what they can enjoy from God himself.
There’s no way around it—being known by others is risky. It is literally an act of faith. There are those who might use our mistakes and faults for harm against us. I am not advising everyone to spill all of their guts to everyone.