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When you walk into church this weekend, if you don’t feel happy, don’t put on a smile.

Weep if you must.

You’re with family; not performing.

After such a terrible week of fear, hatred and death, the church needs to become the safest place for all our emotions to encounter Christ. You’re not attending a costume party, so leave your mask at home. Actually, go back and shatter it to pieces.

The Sunday mask is evil. Destroy it like an idol of old.

What’s the point in pretending anymore anyways? God knows what you’re going through, He knows and understands. So take that fake smile and turn it into healing tears. There’s no shame in your humanity, it is precisely because you are (heartbroken, angry, broke, lonely) that Jesus gave you his life and his family.

However, I have to be honest with you (as a pastor I know this well), it is easier for us when you pretend. It’s less messy. It’s safe and predictable. And in the 90 minutes we get together on Sunday, we “thrive” on safe and predictable.

But don’t let us get away with that!

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We could do business as usual this weekend. Do a small prayer about the state of our nation and move on with our regular programming. But God gave us each other so we could cry, laugh, challenge and honor.

For iron to sharpen iron.

For strangers to become friends.

For enemies to become family.

For black and white and blue to gather, forgive, love, heal.

Remind us leaders why we congregate together. Remind the church that we meet because we all need Jesus; because we are all hungry for love and desperate for connection. We gather because the past week was ____________ (confusing, ugly, inspiring)… and with each other we recover, believe and hope.

The theater of pretend needs to end! 

On Sunday we come together to cry, to meet with God, to find encouragement in the storm… and to be free from the lie that says: “You don’t belong.”

And If you’re happy then, be extra happy! Don’t pretend seriousness either. Be contagious with your joy. Spread good love and cheer. We need the strong, we need the weak, we need the in-between, but most of all, we need the honest and the real.

God will only anoint the real you. Stop faking! – Heather Jackson

I wish you could see my wife act this out week in and week out.

Yeah sure, I have tried in the past to control the measures of her expressions. When she cried I begged God to make her cry quietly… so nobody would think it was all my fault.

(Half of the time, it was my fault!)

And the other half it was just her, being herself, and demonstrating to God (and the church) that we would only get the real her.

Now I smile every time she responds to a sermon. She goes forward, surrenders extravagantly and reminds me again and again that what she’s doing is precisely what Jesus is looking for: Broken alabaster jars, and a pool of tears at His feet.

Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

God is still looking for those who worship in spirit and in truth. So ask yourself this question, “what is true for me today?”

Does your truth feel like loneliness? Anger and frustration? Are you overwhelmed with shame?

Yes, worship God with that.

Turn it into praise.

Break it at the feet of Jesus.

Let it be the inspiration for attending the gathering, not the deterrent for faking it through another Sunday.

Paul said it best in Romans 12, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”

As I wrote in When You Love God, But Hate Church, “I know you have legitimate reason to disagree with me. The church has hurt many hearts, broken good families and produced way too much cheese. But (and it is a BIG but) it has been, and still is His body. Together, individually, united, as family.”

YES! change must come. Reformation is due. Revival is necessary. But I want to be part of the generation that sees itself as a healthy autoimmune system for the body, and not become the generation that wants to be the poison of chemotherapy attacking from the outside.

Both want healing. One is the way of love.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

If we all just admitted that we are hurting and lonely and in need of a Savior, then the Sunday experience would be more freeing, more powerful and in-tune with the Good News of the Gospel.

So join your family at church this weekend. Even if they’re weird, awkward, loud or boring, that’s the people God has given you as a gift of love. Don’t go to judge or compare… go and be all you, whatever that looks like this specific Sunday morning.

Come on, share this invitation with your family and friends.  And let’s destroy the mask together. Time to wear the garments of truth and love.

This week, we need it more than ever.

Peace.

Everyone says they want community and deep friendship. However, because it takes accountability and commitment we run the other way.

– Tim Keller in The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy


+ I recommend you read these two other articles:

  1. The Purpose of Tears
  2. Control and Manipulation in Church