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.

6 comments:

  1. Even in a group as intimate as my house church it can be hard to be "real". Confessing our struggle/sins can be a challenge as the ever present "small talk" can override any desire to be transparent.
    I think that we must be deliberate in our personal lives as well as when we meet with one another to be looking to and shepherding each others souls (without being legalistic). Possibly reminding ourselves as we go to our meetings to ask first ourselves, then each other "Are you repenting?, Are you walking in the light?, Are you being broken?" I think that would center our thoughts more on Christ and the work he wants to accomplish in us?

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    1. Lynnie, you are right. In order to be authentic, we must begin with being honest with ourselves. If we would preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, repentance, and therefore authenticity, would flow easily. I also agree with you that all of this must come from our hearts and not from guidelines imposed upon us. Thanks for your comments.

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  2. Anonymous9:17 PM

    Why do I hold back from sharing my real life? A significant part of it is because I don't trust the people I would share with. Not because I have these deep, dark major issues. But because, as I observe and listen, I see people who won't listen to others, who have *adgendas* for others, who have plastic, *churchy* sounding responses, etc. I listen to them and their theology is not very deep. I have shared before. So has my wife. The response was underwhelming. J-sus Himself knew the hearts of all men and He didn't just blindly trust them.

    ~Mint Chip

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    1. Mint Chip, I'm sorry about your experiences. Your story is way too common - that is true. There is another side of being authentic and that is for us to be attentive to others who attempt authenticity. We can do this by putting others first, listening to their heart and engaging them where they are. Instead many offer 'churchy' sounding responses to get the monkey off of their back. It is hard to love beyond cliches. Loving others is risky and exposure is dangerous. Hopefully, there are people like you and your wife who are listening and offering Spirit led responses to the issues of people's hearts. That will help change the status of how things are which you have articulated.

      You are right that Jesus did not blindly trust, however, He did trust twelve and then Peter, James and John a bit more. I would not advocate blind trust for that is foolishness. We are to die to our current life daily (Luke 9:23) and that has to require moving in the direction of being authentic. How can we impact change without pioneers on this topic?

      I am sorry that you do not feel like you can trust the people with which you are surrounded. That said, I'm assuming Jesus as placed you in that environment on purpose...maybe for this purpose of developing trust or talking about trust and being authentic? I know your experience is common, but how can we break free into the better way Jesus gave as an example (Phil 2)? How can you and I talk to people we don't feel like we can trust and open up a dialog about that? How can we help others learn to get rid of 'churchy' cliches and 'agendas' and learn how to listen to peoples heart and the Spirit so we can journey together? I hope that you and I and our families will live out the answers to those questions with great courage.

      Thanks for your comment and being 'authentic' about how you feel...now if that could happen in the midst of safety.

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  3. Anonymous8:28 PM

    The thing about helping others become more *authentic* is that we are talking about becoming more like the Master. People don't just go, "Oh, I get it" and then quickly become more like Him. IMO the Master sovereignly causes people to REALLY want to change. Even then, change generally happens s-l-o-w-l-y, over years. Sure, there can be kairos moments, but to make it really stick people HAVE to be spiritually thirsty. Sort of like seeking the *Man of Peace*. Even among believers, not everyone is a Man of Peace, not everyone is spiritually passionate. You have to pick your spots by listening to the Master.

    ~Mint Chip

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