While reading a book entitled “Encouragement”- by Drs. Larry Crabb and Dan Allender, I was reminded of some very useful reminders of how to maintain “healthy” Christian fellowship.
Here are some excerpts, mixed with my thoughts, from Chapter Four- “Total Openness– The Wrong Solution”:
“…When the question was asked ‘when or where do you feel the least afraid of other people—most comfortable, relaxed, and safe? Most described their safest times as those spent with someone they could trust to accept them.” That helps them to feel “safe”. They feel they can get deeper than just a “surface relationship”. People want to let down their guard, but need to know they will be safe and protected.
That is where the search for full self-expression without fear of rejection has led. Some group therapy suggests that we can express our deepest thoughts and needs to others who are in a similar situation, and we will ‘feel better’. This has been extended into the church… what happens? Our ‘fellowship’ becomes more than what God intended. It misses the true meaning of “koinonia”… our shared life in Christ. Sharing, as commonly understood, places a premium on emotional honesty without the framework of commitment to God and to other’s welfare. That is a serious problem!
Just imagine if everyone, under the guise of honesty, openly expressed anything they might be thinking of another person. Chaos would ensue. This is what Crabb calls “the disease of sharing”. Total openness replaces surface community with fractured community and, eventually, no community! This is not the answer to “layered relationships”.
Christians do live a shared life. We are indwelt with the same Spirit, we obey the same Book and anticipate the same destiny. In our fellowship, we are to share the joy of a common heritage. But we have cheapened the idea of sharing to the point where sharing now means to exhibit ourselves rather than to demonstrate Christ to one another.
Here are two potential danger zones:
- Sharing feelings without a prior commitment to the welfare and privacy of others leads to disunity, not unity.
We have poor “impulse control”… we direct our energy to expression rather than restraint. We need to be sure that what we say to each other is a reflection of Christ.
- When we give priority to “total– openness” (sharing), our objective becomes personally comfortable and fulfilling relationships, rather than relationships in which others are encouraged to lead a Christ-centered life.
The paradox of the Christian life is that self-fulfillment comes through self-denial. Our lives are enriched when we feel that we are engaging in meaningful relationships. Relationships can and should be enjoyable and fulfilling… but the basis of our fellowship needs to be centered on our shared life in Christ! Let us remember that as we “share”.
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