Today I found Ben hiding behind the couch with his flip flops and a roll of tape. He was taping the sandals back together and it was obvious he had cut them. Of course, in my mother way I simply asked, "Ben, did you cut your sandals?"
He said no. I asked again, and he reminded me how Ian's sandals had broken once without being cut. I showed him on the sandal where the seam was and how the straight cut didn't match up. I asked again. "Ben, did you cut this sandal?"
Instead of saying yes, Ben started to sob. He ran back behind the couch to hide, and I had a choice to make.
I could yell at him for cutting his sandal and do exactly the thing that he feared enough to lie in the first place. Or I could go to him, hug him and let him know I love him and I am disappointed when he lies to me. I did the latter. Of course I made sure to explain that cutting flip flops is not a good idea because now he doesn't have any.
As Christians we are terrified of honesty. Even though God may know our hearts we still lie to Him, to ourselves, and to everyone else. We are much more afraid of the consequences of our mistakes than we are of hiding them. People who confess of hating their spouse, stealing from their work, or skipping quiet time for years at a time are rarely met with a "good job! thanks for being honest!" Those of us in leadership talk about Integrity and taking off our masks and being vulnerable. We tell people that God wants us to be honest and to confess our sins "and he is faithful and just and will forgive us." We tell people that if they have an issue with another believer that they need to go to that person and deal with it in order to have a richer worship experience.
What is wrong with us that we just can't tell the truth? For one, the church says with its lips that we are all sinners, but real sinners are uncomfortable and we don't know how to deal with them. What if the truth is that someone confesses a sin and says "I don't have the strength to stop it?" What then do we do? If they pretend to be alright and repentant and they do all the right things, then there is a better chance the church can handle them. (I also believe people can be honestly doing and saying the "right" things as well..) But if they continue to be honest in their struggles, then the church can't seem to come to a consensus on how to walk with honest people, pray with honest people and help to restore honest people.
Truth is, we should not be so shocked when it comes out that people have blown it big time. God promises us that we are fallen, that we are sinful, and that we will mess up. Even the heroes of the faith in the bible mess up often and sometimes big time.
One thing that God consistently takes issue with in the bible is lying. He calls the pharasees "white-washed tombs" meaning they look clean and perfect on the outside but they are full of decay and death on the inside. He gets angry at those who did all sorts of great things on the outside for God, but on the inside their hearts were far from Him. In fact He even at one point tells those people "I don't know you."
Honesty in church seems rare. We tell people to tell the truth but do we mean it? We ask people to confess their sins but will we confess ours? The man hanging next to Jesus on the cross, condemned for a grievous crime, found himself in heaven that very night and yet those who pretended to be so good and yet were so far, were cast away from Him. I am not saying we need to do away with consequences, but those will come on their own. I am saying that I believe we need to remember that fake righteousness (lying) should make us more afraid than admitting our failures. We may never know when someone is lying - they may live out a beautifully godly life all their days but on the inside, be far from God. But we can sometimes know when someone is being honest and we need to treat them with at the very least, as much respect and care that we treat those who hide from the truth.