The willingness to be vulnerable…to be truly authentic even when betrayal is inevitable is one of the hardest things we as Christians are called to do.
Last week I had the pleasure of taking 30 or so student leaders on a retreat in preparation for the upcoming school year. It was a beautiful time, chocked full of laughter and deep reflection. It’s been awhile since I sat amongst people who were completely willing to be authentic and vulnerable with one another despite the fact that the same authenticity and vulnerability might not be reciprocated. In our discussions on unity, identity, and cultivating authentic community; the question was asked: what does it take to cultivate a space where people feel free to be authentic and vulnerable? As we all know there are several answers to this question, and each one takes intentional effort on our part to create and sustain. Vulnerability and authenticity are more times than not built around a feeling safety. When sharing anything personal, whether it be a hardship or not, people have to feel like they can trust you, like their being heard. Creating, cultivating, and sustaining safe spaces in our communities are essential to making sure that all the voices within our community are heard.
True community demands authenticity and vulnerability. It demands that the strong bear with the failings of the weak. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) It demands humility, trust, and honesty. True community is a holistic reflection of the trinity. However, many of our communities lack one or more of the essentials that make up true community, which has caused us as communities to distrust and guard ourselves from one another…don a mask living in pretense, incongruent to the love and grace of God experienced through his body.
I was amazed at how open these men and women were with each other. The openness that they began to create over the retreat will be essential to the community that they continue to build on campus. They’re desire to experience unity within their community is leading them to erase all pretenses, so that they can sojourn with one another as a unified community through any hardships that may come their way; Loving one another, forgiving one another, no longer fearing betrayal, but being secure in the love of God.
The fear of betrayal is one of the many hindrances to vulnerability…to authentic community. In order to live authentically we must overcome our fear of betrayal so that we can experience the unity that community has to offer, and fulfill our mission to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus knowing that betrayal was imminent was at no point deterred from his mission for justice, truth, salvation, and to make his Father known. His mission was worth the betrayal that would surely come his way. It was of the utmost important that he invest fully in community ultimately giving his life up, so that everlasting life could be poured out onto us. Jesus knew what kind of sacrifice it would take to build, nurture, and sustain authentic community.
It is my prayer that we would not only be willing to live sacrificially in our communities; modeling the same kind of humility, authenticity, and vulnerability that Christ did, but that we would overcome our fear of betrayal, laying our own interest and fears aside in order to pursue the interest of others.