Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Authentic (part 1 of 4)

I was recently presenting concepts of organic church to a group of believers in another country.  Whenever I address people through an interpreter, I know it will be difficult to develop meaningful relationships.  Unless a free flow conversation can take place from the heart, meaningful interactions are difficult to achieve.

Connecting deeply to people is hard when language is a barrier, but it is also difficult when our hearts are not engaged authentically. Somewhere along the path of our lives, we have all learned that being authentic is dangerous; it is a risk that is not often worth taking.  All of us have been betrayed or taken advantage of and we are very committed to that happening as least as possible.  When we begin to follow Jesus, we understand that our goal is to be like Him.  We look around and realize rather quickly that many others are getting real close to being like Him, or so they would have us believe.  They pretend to be doing well in their pursuit of Christ when really they are challenged to figure it all out.  They prefer to fit with to the Christian crowd rather than to share the struggles in their soul.

Because Jesus was tempted in every we are tempted yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), many somehow think this is the standard that they should achieve.  When people who have followed Jesus longer than we have rarely share their imperfections, we learn that sharing our own may not be the best choice.  As we listen, sins are most often shared in the past tense and they are usually the 'greater' sins that have been overcome.  All of this serves to mold us into not sharing our spiritual imperfections and also to pretend that our lives are pretty well together, even though they aren't.   This is faith covered with a veneer of fabricated perfection instead of a faith oozing with honest questions about how to live like Jesus.  It becomes a very sophisticated system that values disingenuousness, pretension and deception.  These are certainly not Biblical characteristics.

Disingenuousness, pretension and deception may sound harsh, but when we are not honest about who we are, these words become accurate descriptors.  Which married couple hasn't been fighting all weekend only to come to church and 'pretend' like everything is wonderful?  Who hasn't had some level of anger towards co-workers or even at a friend from church only to keep it a secret or even lie and say you are getting along just fine with everyone?  The examples could continue, but I think you understand.  Somewhere along the way of following Jesus, we have learned to be deceptive in what is really going on in our hearts.  Why do you think that is?

It is true that often, people really don't want to know you that well.  They don't really want to know about your fears, let alone your sins and struggles.  When many of our leaders come off as having almost supernatural self-control and rarely, if ever, confess to any imperfections of any significance, we learn quickly that we should just sweep any 'issues' we have under the rug.  This pretentious way of living soon leads to legalism: the attempt to please God by keeping various rules often invented by others.  When a friend from church comes over, the bottle of wine gets moved from the pantry to the master bedroom closet.  The jokes we tell or even the small bit of colorful language we use at work never gets mixed into the equation with friends from church.

Instead, of trying to live up to someone else's standards, I suggest we should live authentically as fellow strugglers who often get it wrong.  As a fellow struggler, you stand ready to help me get back up and on the right path (Eccl. 4:9-10) instead of judging me for being on the wrong path.  When we are fellow strugglers, we are able to be truthful, authentic and genuine.  Together we can struggle to live the way Jesus lived.

I would love to hear your comments on these thoughts!

Next time, we will discuss a bit further the value of an authentic life and how to break out of a deceptive one.