A recent article I read about the issue of authenticity(1) acknowledges what we know and come to understand about this word and how we want to practice it in our body life: to be authentic is to be transparent to each other, to be free to admit our failures and weaknesses; to be authentic is to reject pretence and hypocrisy and to be free to tell the truth about all areas of our individual lives.
The author warns that as we come to accept authentic relationships as norms within the church, we should beware of doing it without biblical thought, what I would interpret as doing things without the whole counsel of His Word. A few areas that the author warned her readers about include the following:
1. Authenticity and the definition of truth.
When we tell the truth about some or all areas of our lives, we need to allow God and His Word to define and interpret what is truth. Much of our sharing is tinted by the way we interpret our experiences / our weaknesses. The lens and belief system by which we interpret these things may sometimes not reflect the truth as God sees them.
A vivid example that the author used is Numbers 13 and 14, the account of Moses sending out 12 spies into the land of Canaan. Ten of the spies reported what they saw and interpreted – strong people, fortified city, the Israelites would not be able to go up against the Canaanites. Joshua and Caleb reported what God saw – that the Israelites were well able to overcome the city if the Lord delighted in them. A question was then asked of us, “If the spies came to our churches today, which group of men would be praised as “authentic?”
2. Authenticity and the endorsement of sin, no matter how subtle.
When we share our weaknesses with each other, we need to be careful that we do not subtly endorse sin. What does the author mean? When we confess to each other our weaknesses against greed, pornography and gluttony, and announce our need for help to stand firm, it is easy for all parties to be united against these “obvious” sins. What we need to also guard against is an attitude of one-upmanship because we feel that we have more courage to share the deeper secrets of our hearts. What we need to be aware of is a critical and unkind attitude that expects the full exposure of all the skeletons in the other person’s closet in the name of authenticity.
3. Authenticity and the application of wisdom and the hope of our future glory.
When we hear a brother or sister admit their weaknesses and failures, it is not unusual to feel a sense of humility as we share each other’s burdens. The most common response is to commiserate with our brother or sister and then to pray for his/her deliverance.
None of this is wrong, but the author warns that in our quest to avoid the appearance of pride, we may question too much our God-given ability to shine the light of wisdom. If we are clearly guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit, let us also help each other by confidently applying God’s truth to the different situations that we encounter. In the words of the author, “Seeking wisdom and speaking wisdom must have a place in an authentic life.” Not only so, but we should also point each other to the hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:2) as we await our transformation into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18).
By Dr Ong Kiat Hoe, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 21 May 2017)
(1) Megan Hill. Christian Today Women, 13 Sept 2012. Keeping It Real: The truth about Authenticity. Do we Christians even understand what the buzzword means?