For the past few years, ‘authenticity’ has been the buzzword in many circles. Management conferences focus on helping people be authentic leaders. Businesses hire consultants to help them with brand authenticity, authentic service and authentic consumer engagement. Even in the culinary world, diners pine for authentic food experiences – food that remains true to its cultural roots instead of pandering to local taste buds; even if it means importing ingredients to cook authentic char kuay teow or chicken rice in New York City!
Dear Church, we as Yio Chu Kang Chapel value authenticity and consider it to be part of our DNA – which is to be an A.I.M (Authentic, Intentional, Missional) Community. I believe that desiring authenticity in our Christian community is spiritually healthy and necessary in growing a culture where we feel safe to remove our masks and stop hiding the truth about ourselves in an effort to blend in.
Authenticity is vital in Christian discipleship. But it’s also very misunderstood.
Psychology Today defines Authenticity to be the “congruence between our true self (values & beliefs) and our actions”. This however, leads me to raise an even deeper question: What is our true self? Uncertainty like this causes the world to break into numerous factions that formulate their own definitions and designs of Self; and subsequently Gender, Sexuality, Singlehood, Marriage, etc.
As individuals then, we struggle as we compound together different ideas of authenticity and attempt to be as real as we can be.
But sometimes, these ideas about authenticity don’t match what we experience in church and we become frustrated and/or disillusioned. The truth is, we have to return to God’s blueprint for us. We need to remove any coloured lenses we might have and look into Scripture to find out what authenticity is.
One passage that points us toward that is Ephesians 4:22-24 where believers are called, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I have three observations about Authenticity from the passage:
Our True Self is Corrupt
We cannot be true to ourselves because we are by nature deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and if we try, we will always end up in a never-ending, vicious cycle.
Authenticity is about God’s likeness, not our own
Ultimately, Jesus is the standard for authenticity (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:13). Being authentic means being true to God’s likeness for us, found in Jesus Christ. Every day, we need to put off our old self more and more so that our new selves, created in the likeness of Christ, might be displayed in us increasingly and endlessly.
Authenticity is a Journey
None of us are fully real yet. We are all in the process of God helping us become real and God will complete this good work in each of us (Philippians 1:6). We have to accept too that this journey is often painful and it’s usually harder and takes longer than we expect. But His ways are better than our ways.
Remember too that others are also in the middle of the journey. When striving to be authentic, others might not reciprocate. Yet, we press on for God has promised that at the end of this journey lies for us a glory and reward more beautiful and satisfying than we can ever imagine.
By Adrian Ow, Assistant Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 16 June 2019)