Be An Authentic Christian
If you have ever been to a masquerade ball, Halloween party, or Harvest festival you probably enjoyed trying to figure out who the costumed guests really were. When it is for amusement attempting to decipher someone’s true identify can be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately much of the World does not resort to masks only on holidays but incorporates false identities as a way of life. When people believe their true self is unattractive or unacceptable they will work to hide themselves under a disguise of false pretensions. Sadly in the Church we are tempted to conceal our true identities as well. When the masks are not decorative or festive, but defensive and purposely misleading, it is frustrating to try to figure out who people really are. Disingenuous character traits have no place within Christian fellowship.
Christ states in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Part of this abundant life Christ promises is the ability to live lives of distinct authenticity in a world full of fakes. Authentic artworks have value because they are genuine, they are not common or cheap imitations; they are the real deal. Christians are the individual masterpieces of God the supreme artist. It is foolish to attempt to create ourselves into a version of our own design when the master craftsman stands ready to perfect us. Christians experience authentic love and acceptance from God through their restored relationship established by Jesus, because we receive authentic love we are now able to share it with others.
The World and worldly people offer friendship to those who are a reflection of themselves or serve their selfish motives. The World says, “I will accept you if you are like me, or if it is advantageous for me to extend friendship to you because it will further my purposes.” It is narcissism, self love, which eventually will lead to isolation rather than intimacy; because the real self is never exposed it is also therefore never accepted. Approval is really only based off of a false construct, a phony identity created to achieve respectability. The World masks the true self in a belief this will gain the approval of others; it places the approval of man over the approval of God. Christian friendship is different from the World’s idea of camaraderie because we no longer view or evaluate others based off of superficial worldly dynamics. Christians do not look directly at one another to evaluate if someone else is worthy of friendship; we look first to Christ and then through Christ at others. In this way we see people as they really are, either already accepted and approved of by Christ or in need of Christ’s love. Christianity is an invitation to truly know and be truly known by God and others.
For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11 (NIV)
Unity is achieved not on merely a surface level, but on a spiritual level. In the Bible the deep inner man or woman is often linked to our spirit; it is our truest self. It is at this level of reality we wish to communicate love and receive love from God and others, this is authenticity.
“…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” Philippians 1:27 (NASB)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NASB)
Christian relationships should be devoid of superficial interactions. Christianity is not a veneer (a shallow external surface only appearance) of genuine love, but it is authentic through and through, from top to bottom; it is solid. Christianity frees people to be as God designed them to be, this is one of the reasons hypocrisy is so out of place in the Church. When people live lives where they value themselves and others based upon appearances, accomplishments, and performance there will be an underlying need to appear as if we have it all together. Performance based acceptance creates people with shallow or even phony public identities, they are ashamed of their true nature. When you live a life centered on the acceptance Christ offers us apart from performance authentic relationships bloom. If God’s opinion values more than that of other peoples’, and God knows us as we truly are and still offers us deep real love, then life may be lived transparently and honestly. The light of Jesus dispels the darkness which attempts to hide our true selves. We no longer feel the need to hide from God and others, the shame sin brings is trumped by the experience of true peace.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 1 John 2:1 (NLT)
Authentic lives will be a light in the darkness; an attractive alternative to the way society programs us to think about ourselves and others. It happens when people get honest about who they are first with God and then with others. We share both our joys and our pains. Both triumphs and tragedies are displayed so as a community we may share deeply interconnected lives. Genuineness means we know our sins are paid for at the cross so they are powerless to isolate us from true love. We must model actual faith in Christ’s work as the central trait of who we believe ourselves to be. True freedom is marked by honest humble people revealing their true feelings, confessing their failures, disclosing their doubts, admitting their fears, acknowledging their weaknesses, and asking for help and prayer.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:5-9 (ESV)
Motives will be pure within Christian communities, since honest interaction is the goal any methods based upon manipulation or politicking will be rejected as insincere. A sanctified craving for Christian fellowship is a healthy appetite which will not be satisfied with the superficial snacks of empty politeness or shallow conversations. Openness is contagious, as with most Christian virtues, once it is experienced there will be little pleasure in the counterfeit. Christ frees us in all ways to be the people God always intended us to be.