But  we  all,  with open  face  beholding as in a glass  the glory  of the Lord,  are changed  into the same  image  from  glory  to  glory,  even as  by  the Spirit  of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18, KJV).

When we moved to Indianapolis six years ago, we began visiting various churches in the area to try to find a new “church home.” (American Christians are familiar with this ritual. Unlike our counterparts in Europe who attend the state church of the parish in which they live, we Americans place a high value on our freedom as consumers–even in choosing a place of worship.) The pastoral staff and designated lay greeters put on their best Sunday faces when they introduced themselves. So did we! All of us wanted to prove that we were faithful citizens of what Reuben Welch once described as the Kingdom of “Be Nice.”

Then it happened. As we were leaving the sanctuary of a church on New Years Day 2006, I shook the hand of the associate pastor who’d preached that morning and realized he wore no “Sunday face.” His eyes connected with mine, he paused to study my expression, and then he spoke with candor, simplicity, and genuine interest.

That’s the church where we worship today. I think my wife and I made that decision in large measure because we found many others in the congregation who shared themselves transparently, as the associate did. Subsequent experience bore out that initial impression; here, people felt no obligation to hide behind “nice” masks. They are the same people in private that they are in the narthex on Sunday morning, and this allows us to discern what’s really going on in one another’s lives.

I’ve long assumed that the Apostle urges us to commune with the Lord “with open face” because we need to avoid all pretense and posturing in our conversation with the divine. I still believe that’s the primary meaning of this passage.

But our experience in this congregation has made me realize that we need to be open-faced with the people around us as well. To have true community as Christians, we are called not only to “Be Nice,” but to “Be Real.”