There are few moments more socially humiliating than the denied high five. You walk through a group of people, see a friend in the crowd and throw up a big five, but alas, the so-called friend misses the gesture and you are left with your hand in the air. You have one and only one option- the head scratch. If you can convince any witnesses that you really intended the scratch all along then you are safe, but you just know that everyone saw the denial, the rejection. You are a fool. The cover-up scratch failed, and you are humiliated, exposed, a goofy wretch.
The same idea explains why our diaries have locks on them and our moleskin journals never leave our sight. We can’t imagine what would happen if the mass public really knew what went on inside our heads and hearts. We fear the denied high five because for that fleeting moment our cover is blown. It is a full-time job concealing our true identities and convincing the world that we have all our ducks in a row. Deep down, though, we know the truth- that we are weak, hurting, and definitely not cool. This fear not only shields us from experiencing the freedom of the gospel, but it also warps the way we relate to fellow man.
Last summer a certain friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart. I made a point to pray for him and love him whenever and however I could. That same friend later shared with someone else that he simply could not relate to me. In his eyes, I had put on a glossy façade, feigning invincibility and faultlessness. I never revealed my weakness and humanness and thus was not a real person. He saw me as a fake, like a mannequin in Christianity’s window display. My friend’s assessment was right on- my pride and fear kept me from really loving him at all.
I internalize and cover up my sin and weakness because I fear that any failure on my part implies a failure of Christianity. I must be perfect; otherwise Christianity is just a big flop, exposed as an elaborate hoax. The pressure is on and I must perform so that Christianity looks like a good buy.
This assumption is the exact opposite of the gospel. It is anti-gospel. To say that my failures somehow discredit Christianity completely disregards the cross! What pride and hypocrisy! Out of death we are made alive in Christ and our new identities are not bound up in our own righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ. It is by His perfection that we are presented as spotless before the Father. And while the Spirit does begin its healing work on our hearts, it is forever the work of Jesus that makes us children of God. I no longer have to disguise my sin for fear of nullifying the gospel. The gospel, rather, nullifies my sin, and frees me up to live as though transparent. The world can see through me- can see that I am needy and that there is a savior who triumphs over my brokenness.
It is not in my goodness that I truly relate to my friend. We relate to each other in confession, in our common condition. I need Jesus like he needs Jesus and it is in this bond we find communion- communion with each other and with the Son. What better way to love and be loved than to throw off the covers, expose my sin, and acknowledge my desperate need for Jesus? Are we not drawn to people who have nothing to prove, who are not held captive by the need to seem impenetrable? I am! I want to be transparent, not to glorify my sin, but to be open and honest. Let the world see my weakness and denied high fives that my savior might be exalted.