A Jagged Contention: Sympathetic Company

“A number of church members who have joined Alcoholics Anonymous or weight-control groups have reported on the radical difference in the atmosphere that they have found in these groups from the atmosphere found in average congregations. In such groups, organized around a confessed need of the participants, there can be compete honesty. People can tell where they are, they can bare their problems, their failures, their doubts, and their fears. They can do it because they have a confidence that they are in sympathetic company. They are not going to be cast out for failures, they are not going to be scorned or laughed at. They can experience the therapeutic effects of telling all without losing their acceptance. Since there is mutual sharing, there can be mutual help.  This is precisely the attitude one would expect in a church that really believed in justification. Our Protestant churches all unite in one way or another every Sunday confessing: “We are sinful and unclean, we have come short of thy glory.” In this way the church acknowledges that it is a community of those who confess they are sinners. But seldom does the atmosphere of the church encourage or even allow its members to spell out the confession in meaningful detail. Having ritually confessed to our sin, we must henceforth put on the false front of righteous piety.”

– William Hordern, Living by Grace, pg. 171-172


How can one explain the “false front of righteous piety” found in so many of our congregations? What can we learn from groups like AA when it comes to being open about our sinfulness with one another?

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