I love Michael Patton’s authenticity.  The way he exposes his faults and failures in such a public forum is both refreshing and encouraging.  In fact, when I was writing my personal statement for my seminary application, I was so  strongly encouraged by his openness that I wrote it in a way I would not have but for his influence.  His exposures gave me courage to tell my story and expose cracks, showing how that can used in ministry.  It did make for a much richer personal statement, even though I recognized the crooked path I was painting.  It was exposing but I was relieved.

I don’t think I am alone.  For I have noticed an interesting phenomenon whenever he pours out his soul in a post such as this recent one, Uncle Lord. People began to open up.  You can almost hear the sighs of relief through the internet, sighs that have come from weary souls burdened with life’s pains, bottled up with angst over the possibility of exposure yet suddenly uncorked to reveal authentic expressions.  The relief echos “You too, Mike? Man I’m glad you said that because here is what I have going through…”  The relaxation soon turns to ministry, as people chime in with encouragements and prayers.  In some sense, I find myself surprised not only by Michael’s openess but more so by the unveiling of others.   And then I have to think about why I am surprised.

I believe the fall of man has much to do with our unwillingness to expose ourselves.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately looked at each other and were embarrassed prompting the covering up of themselves (Genesis 3:7).  Then the unthinkable, they heard the rushing wind of an upset God coming towards them.  They ran for cover (Genesis 3:10).  They did not want to be exposed.

So what does that have to do with us?  I believe that the sin we inherited from our ancestral parents brought it the consequences of spiritual death and the reality of condemnation, an insidious principle that creates shame and guilt (Romans 5:12).  As believers in Christ, we are absolved from the penalty of sin but certainly not its presence.  Paul tells us in Romans 7:23-25, that there is an ever present principle that constantly seeks to rear its ugly head.  This keeps us in a state of hearing our short comings shout at us to shut up and keep our mouths closed.  Sin and faults and failures puts us back in the garden hiding behind the bush with our ancestral parents, even though positionally this is not the case.  Paul has to remind us of this in Romans 8:1, that therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  This may not be the exact expression of your theology but  at the very minimum I think we all can agree that there are feelings of shame experienced with episodes or impressions of personal failure.

Now as Christians, we know that Christ bore our sins once for all and that John tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   But I don’t believe it is enough to just know that are sins are absolved, that we constantly come short but all forgiven in Christ.   We do bad, we think wrong thoughts, we struggle with God’s actions and motives towards us, we confess that to God but yet a sense of shame lingers so that we often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of sin and confession.  We know positionally that we are forgiven but at the same time we want to hide from others, what so easily keeps us from experiencing true freedom.  Why is that?

I am convinced both from the witness of Scripture and from life’s observations, that confession within the Christian community becomes essential for true freedom and true healing to occur.  I believe that’s why the rush of relief descends upon Michael’s baring posts.   People recognize that they are not alone.  But isn’t that why James tells us in James 5:16, to confess our faults one to another so that we will be healed?  It is not might or maybe, but will be healed, restored, set back right.  The emphatic instruction is within the context of prayer, so its not just enough for us to pray but to call upon others to bear our burdens. Consider what Paul says in Galatians 6:2, to bear one another burdens and in Philippians 2:4, to look out for the interests.  Is this not because we are members, one with another that project our commitment to head, which is Christ?  We need each other.

But that entails a willingness for exposure, a willingness to express what so easily will keep us cowering in a corner fearful of judging eyes and condemning words.  I am further convinced that our enemy uses this fear to keep us silent, when we know we are not measuring up.  I find this especially true,  in light of others who may hold to beliefs that only positive expressions of Christianity should be conveyed, while reserving unfavorable thoughts towards God, ourselves or others for the discreet counsel of a few and the solitude of prayer life.  I think this position completely misses the significance of the Christian community, as the body of Christ and the need to defer, help, encourage and counsel one another.

The NT writers do not make this distinction, not even for leadership that we have to put on a front of strength to effectively lead people.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that leaders suddenly become dispensers of all their ills to whomever will listen.  There is wisdom after all.  But I don’t think it should be used as mask to portray a facade that does not exist because there is the allusion that leadership means only showing strengths and not weaknesses.  This is one attribute of Chuck Swindoll I admire so much.  He is willing to be authentic with his audience as is Michael with his posts.  And this further supports the notion that we are all clay pots anyway, dependent upon God’s power and not our own to carry out His agenda and reflect His glory(2 Corinthians 4:7). How can we disparage others from struggles.

Because where we live is not always a bed of roses.  There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys and everything in between.   We need to be allowed to express our struggles, attitudes, short-comings and failures without fear of reprisal and without repercussions of alienation.  We are already fighting alienation that I believe non-authenticity further influences.   Yes, I think when we are disingenuous with one another and only express the positive, we do not allow others room to confess their faults, which reinforces the condemnation already present.  I believe it further pushes that brother or sister into a closet of despair since they are unable to match the same level of enthusiasm and might believe that they are the spiritual losers.   So they keep silent while their spiritual walk erodes.  And I personally think that is a great tragedy and a sin against the body of Christ.

So my exhortation with this post is to keep it real because that is what authenticity is, an expression of ‘this is where I am right now’.   Are you angry, lonely, doubting, hurting, scared, indifferent, worried, or tempted?  Find yourself in a community of believers that will be willing to listen, embrace, counsel, encourage and even admonish (we do need that too!).  Confess your faults one to another.  Are you willing to allow that hurting saint to express his or her fears, concerns, issues, worries, frustrations, sadness or anger, even with God? Confess your faults one to another.  I am not suggesting that we dissolve into pity-party feasts but I am encouraging everyone to just be honest about what is going on in your life and to allow others to do the same.   Tell somebody! The internet is a great place to start but more importantly, whose shoulder do you have to cry on?  Confess your faults one to another so that you may be healed.

Now, please excuse me.  I have some people I need to talk to.

    15 replies to "On Authenticity, Condemnation and Community"

    • steve martin

      Great post!

      That is what is so wonderful about being in a church that preaches the unmitigated law (hard), and the unmitigated gospel (free).

      All are exposed on the same level (we have, and do all fall short).

      Then, when there is no one left standing but Jesus (the law has done it’s job), the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus is not merely offered…but handed over…no strings attached…absolutely free of charge.

      Nothing to do then, but say, ‘thank you, Jesus!’

    • Susan

      I’ve often thought about this. If we are commanded in scripture to confess to one another…why don’t I hear this much in church. Sure we are told to confess to those we have wronged, but what about opening up the secrets of our heart, and our homes, to another? You are right, Lisa, we need this level of honesty if we are to be helped, encouraged and strengthened by the family of God. This is an avenue of healing that we often forgo…..because of shame…or pride…or fear. Thanks for your perspective, Lisa. Very worthwhile post.

      I heard someone say recently that one thing surprised him when he left the Catholic church and joined an evangelical church: people didn’t seem to take sin very seriously (as they did in the Catholic church). I thought about this…..Catholics go to confession. It’s easier to sweep sin under the rug of grace, when you can hide it, and not confess it to anyone. I’ve often felt that this is a very bad tendency among Christians: Not taking sin very seriously. I was really struck by this once as I read through the book of Leviticus. Reading about God’s penalties for sin …even seemingly ‘benign’ sins….was decisive and immediate. That impressed upon me just how much God hates sin, and how serious it really is. We forget this far too much. We don’t really concern ourselves with personal righteousness…after all, we are forgiven.
      Confession IS good for the soul.

    • Stan Hankins

      Oh man. What a great post!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      God forgives! Amen.

      Do you forgive yourself?

      Will others whom you’ve wronged forgive you?

      Do people, generally, appreciate emotional vomit of a confession of wrong-doing? Depends on what it is, yes?

    • Chris Skiles

      Lisa, Thanks for the post. I whole heartily agree. It is so refreshing to have someone like Michael, in a position of teacher and leader to be so open about his struggle. And you are right it is very encourging to us fellow strugglers.

      I have 2 teenage kids and I have noticed in recent years that authenticity seems to be a common theme that they are looking for in not only their friends but also their leaders. It would appear to me that for a leader to be effective these days (think post modern world) that he must be “real”.

      Michael, if you are reading this thanks so much for being real. I for one have been truly blessed by your openness.

    • Yo

      Patton is a poser

    • Lisa Robinson

      Yo, what does that mean? Just curious

    • Cadis


      I enjoy your writting. I like the open honesty of Michael’s posts as well. When in comes to confessing our faults on to another I think we have lost the art of doing that. One of the things that surprises me more than Michael baring his worries and struggles and short comings is his ability to even see them. I have to ask my husband about my short comings and he’s afraid to tell me(and that’s the way I like him)
      I think that is one of the primary reasons to keep under cover our faults is it exposes you( I know, I am brilliant 🙂 ) I am currently dealing with such a situation where I have exposed my weakness and fear and it opened me up to criticism, pity, and made me a stepping stone for others to make themselves look better. I have stopped talking to two other professing believer’s and the lesson I’ve walked away with is…don’t expose yourself like this again, smile and shut up.

    • Minnow

      Cadis–Sadly yours is the experience I have most often had in the Church as well. Although it is nice to hear what Lisa has said here I have found it to be so rarely practiced that I am sure God’s heart is broken.

    • steve martin

      It is so much easier to open up with others in a church where everyone is exposed each Sunday (with an uncompromising preaching of the law), instead of a church where they try and use the law to make you better. The latter only creates Pharisees who will think quite highly of their own obedience and look down their noses at everyone else.

      That’s just the way it works.

    • Yo

      Lisa, a poser is a person who habitually pretends to be something he is not or thinks he is better then someone else.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cadis and Minnow, sadly I think you are right, hence, the need for wisdom and discretion lest we spew out our ’emotional vomit of confession’ as TU&D said, to those who would trample our vulnerability underfoot. I have experienced that as well. I guess the point of the story is to at least find somebody to confide in vs. being a stoic reservoir of inner destruction.

    • Kevin Ritchey


      Who are you? Your post is well thought out, supported by Scripture, eloquent, humble and poignant.. It’s useful.

      Thank you. You’ve echoed a burden that has weighed on my heart for years. Hebrews 3:13 is one of my life verses. From what I can find in Scripture there are three things that should be daily activities in any Christian’s life. Prayer, Scripture reading, and daily confession/exhortation.

      The fight against sin is won when we enter into a family of fellow sinners willing to invest in our lives while we invest in theirs. I know this to be true, for Scripture says so. As emotional confirmation I have also experienced it first hand.

      Do you have a blog site?

    • Demian Farnworth

      Transparency and vulnerability are huge ice breakers. I respect Michael for laying it out there.

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