We live in an age that values and praises “realness”. We fall in love with the down-to-earth characters in shows and movies. We appreciate when we hear that our favorite celebrities are able to joke around and express compassion to those marginalized. As Christians, we want to fight for “realness” and vulnerability but through the lens of the gospel.True vulnerability is not just sharing victory over sin, but also admitting the true depth of it. As I’ve grown as a Christian I have learned the beauty in being vulnerable. Yet it is still difficult to allow myself to be known by others in a way that exposes the real me. It’s been helpful to be repeatedly reminded that the gospel frees us to be vulnerable.
Our pride and shame often hold us back from being vulnerable. Pride exalts our own opinion of ourselves and shame exalts the opinions of others. As a Christian, living in faith and repentance turns your gaze to the one whose opinion matters most. 1 John 1 says
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1
John uses the illustration of light because the light exposes things that would not have been known in the dark. His use of light in these verses refers to truth (the gospel) and holiness. He is writing that a crucial part of being a Christian is acknowledging that we are sinners, which means that as Christians we need to be willing to be vulnerable with ourselves and other believers.
Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City writes,
The more we see our own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to us. On the other hand, the more aware we are of God’s grace and our acceptance in Christ, the more able we are to drop our denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of our sin.2
The more we see our sin, the more we see our need for a Savior, enabling us to rejoice all the more greatly in the good news of the gospel that Christ redeems us from the depth of our sin and the punishment of God’s wrath. By openly admitting to my friend that I am jealous of the gift she received or apologizing to my sister that I intentionally made a snide remark, I am actively confessing that I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy. It is a beautiful thing to be known, ultimately by God and then by others.
Being vulnerable does not mean that every one you interact with has to know your sin struggles. As a matter of fact, that would be unhealthy and unhelpful. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.” The use of heart refers to one’s inner life in relation to God, from which flow out our thoughts, feelings, and choices. We are to resist wicked desires and take in words of wisdom (knowledge of God and godliness). So we do want to be careful with who we open up to. However, remember college is a great time to establish life-long friendships and to grow in godly habits. I would suggest finding one or two Christian friends of the same gender to be more open with. Here are some practical ways to fight for vulnerability:
1. Ask for prayer on hard things, like familial issues or repeated sin struggles.
2. Praise God together for answered prayers and signs of growth in godliness.
3. Confess specific sins. If you struggle with lying, then confess the last time you lied and why in that moment you chose to lie. Ask for prayer and accountability.
4. Allow others to speak into your life. Ask close friends for ways they see you sin and ways you can grow in godliness. The most loving thing to do for a brother or sister in Christ is to be able to help them become more like Christ.
My prayer for us is that as a ministry we would grow in vulnerability and deep friendships to the glory of God and for our joy.
1. 1 John 1:7-9
2. Tim Keller, “All of Life is Repentance”