“How are you doing?”
It’s a pet peeve of mine—that I’m also guilty of—when those words are used as a greeting rather than as a question. It’s easy to say, “How are you doing?” without actually wanting a substantive answer. Sometimes people will ask me that without even breaking stride as they pass me by. The only appropriate, or even physically possible, answer becomes “Oh, fine” or “Good!”—even if things may not be so. This type of shallow greeting embodies a lot of our everyday interactions. We often hum along the surface in relationships but rarely plunge beneath to the real state of our hearts.
Community: A Place for Reality
Christian community should be one of the places where people can actually be vulnerable. Gathering with fellow Christians should be one of the few times where we don’t hide the realities of life. To be vulnerable may mean to be honest about sin, or brokenness, or weakness, or just the general mess of life. Vulnerability encompasses guilt from the past, low-level anxiety, loneliness, sadness, or a general lack of joy or satisfaction. Some may be doubting God, feeling overwhelmed or inadequate as a Christian, husband, wife, parent or employee.
There’s a danger when Christians are expected to be open and honest, but are not. If someone opens up about an issue, and others respond with flippant attitudes, Christian clichés, total silence, shock and disgust, or perhaps even indifference, this discourages and even prevents openness. It communicates to the one who shared, as well as to the others in the group, that what was shared is unimportant. Others will remember this experience and never share anything vulnerable about themselves. When Christians fail to respond well to tender moments it stunts friendships and ministry, and it leads to nice but superficial relationships.
What Is Redemptive Vulnerability?
So what is redemptive vulnerability? To be vulnerable is to be susceptible to being wounded or hurt. In the context of community, vulnerability is opening up about one’s humanity. It’s to admit that we are not perfect people. We have not arrived. We are broken, unfinished people who live in a world that itself is broken because of the fall. We experience depression, burn out, cancer, sadness, death, grief, disability, disease, relational strife, loneliness, lust, anxiety and the list goes on.
But our story doesn’t need to end with brokenness. Redemptive vulnerability—a vulnerability that leads to life—is where we share our brokenness in order to display the surpassing power and sufficiency of Christ and the gospel, which transforms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ. Vulnerability is not an end in itself. Rather, our vulnerability should point us, individually and together with other believers, to the sufficiency of Jesus. It looks at and hopes in the redemption we have in Christ Jesus and the work of the cross.