Engagement is wonderful.
A spectacular season of relationship between a man and a woman, engagement affords a couple the constant reminder to be intentional in their preparation for the marriage to come. My fiancé and I have been engaged now for over a month, and we are enjoying new opportunities to converse about our future life together, from our desires and our hopes, to who will handle the car repairs and finances. One of the neatest, most encouraging aspects of engagement is the chance to deepen our love by being totally and completely up-front with one another about…well…everything.
Our ability to approach the other person honestly, with love and grace, about any given situation will determine the depth of trust, or lack thereof, in our relationship. Beyond the vital development of trust, honesty provides two imperfect people, whether friends or fiancés, with a very unique opportunity: to see the gospel at work, as they reflect God’s abundant grace to one another and to a watching world.
Read Paul’s words to the Colossians in chapter three:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as The Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony…” (v.12-14).
Honesty in our relationships–whether familial, or friend-to-friend, or in dating or marriage–is absolutely vital to maintaining a unity that is founded in Christ and developed through trust. Honesty, when desiring the best for the other and for the relationship, is a manifestation of love, which Paul says binds all things together in perfect harmony. We find the ultimate example of love and harmony in the Trinitarian relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we revel in the reconciliation of the Christian to the Father in Jesus; and we heed the call to be united within the Body of Christ, and therefore, to one another.
Honesty in our relationships provides opportunity for a number of gospel truths to be revealed:
1. Honesty is opportunity to put on the humble submission of Christ.
It seems a rare thing to find a person who loves confrontation. Let’s face it–confrontation in any form is uncomfortable because it involves a measure of vulnerability. In essence, when we confront someone we love with the truth, we are calling them out, exposing their sin (or bad habit), and then holding our breaths for their response, which is completely out of our control. Comfortable? I think not.
But consider why we are able and instructed to confront in love: Christ, Himself, was our humble Savior, who endured the cross for our sake. He did not look ahead to Calvary and say, “That looks uncomfortable, so I think I’ll pretend it’s not happening and avoid it.” Christ humbly and obediently submitted to the Father, putting Himself directly in line with God’s will, and faced the discomfort (more like the agony) of the cross for the greater outcome: our salvation. Christ had our unity with the Father in mind when He died for us and rose again to life eternal.
For us, this means that we can pray for strength to be like Christ, setting aside our self-centered desire for comfort so that unity, love and trust can be fostered in our relationships. This means we can step out in vulnerability without fear because we ultimately trust in Christ. This means that we get to practice our identity in Christ, as we humbly submit to the Father’s calling for “humility, meekness, and patience”. What an opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness!
2. Honesty is opportunity to bear witness to the grace of God.
What happens if you are the one being confronted? What then? Our vulnerability is equally exposed when a person we love points out to us an area of sin or weakness. The way we respond reveals the condition of our hearts, and if we have truly understood the gospel in all its fullness.
When, by the Spirit’s power, we grasp that in Christ we have been given abundant grace, we are more able to respond with grace and humility. God’s grace for our sins allows us to see ourselves in right perspective: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5). We never deserved His atoning sacrifice and victorious resurrection, but still He saved us out of love for us. God’s undeserved grace compels us to give to others what we have received in Christ, out of obedience to Him and gratitude for His compassion. We are freed to love others because of God’s liberating, compelling grace.
This means that, when we are confronted with our sins and weaknesses, we can humbly receive what is being said to us. We can be thankful that God’s grace has covered it all, providing a person to help us see our blind spots. This means that we can also respond to another’s confession with love and grace, because we realize that we, ourselves, have been given total forgiveness in Christ and are freed to love as He has loved us.
3. Honesty is opportunity for our sanctification.
Uncomfortable situations take us where we would rather not venture. But it is in those situations that the Holy Spirit empowers a deeper work within us, something we never could achieve on our own efforts—our sanctification! That is grace, ongoing and unceasing. Of course, we will never know perfection until we see Jesus face to face; our becoming more like Christ is a work in progress. We are not yet who we shall be! But when the Holy Spirit wills and works in us for God’s good pleasure, we become more like Christ and less like the world, step by step and day by day. Sinner to sinner, we choose honesty despite difficulty and discomfort, trusting that God’s grace is truly sufficient in our weakness to transform us to Christlikeness.
This means that, when opportunities for honesty arise, we can trust the deeper work that God is doing in our hearts and know that grace is being lavished on us in the lifelong process. It means that hardship is ordained by God for His larger Kingdom purposes and is never in vain. It means that we have cause to rejoice, even in the storms, because we trust in Christ’s sufficiency to sustain and change us, and His salvation to be our ever-present hope and help.
What opportunities for honesty have arisen before you today? May you be filled with strength by the Holy Spirit to walk in love, grace, humility and compassion as you trust Christ with your relationships, to His glory and your eternal joy!
[Post credit: Crosswalk]