Being Authentic—OK, but How?

Being authentic has become somewhat trendy. What do we mean by authentic? What is it about that word that draws our attention? In our world of impersonal social media and fake news, perhaps we sense the need for something we can trust—something deeper in our relationships.

In an article for Christianity Today called “Keeping it Real: The Truth about Authenticity,” author Megan Hill shares that authenticity is transparency, truth-telling about all areas of life. She offers five principles for being an authentic Christian:

• Authenticity proclaims the reality of the Bible.
• Authenticity doesn’t excuse sin.
• Authenticity seeks the good of the body of Christ.
• Authenticity honors wisdom.
• Authenticity points ahead to a perfected future.

Her thoughts resonate with me, especially about pointing ahead to a perfected future. In the past, I feel like I have really tried being authentic with mixed results. It seems that the more I try to be authentic with people, the more confusing it can become.

For me, great freedom exists in authentic living. I don’t have to protect myself or hide. Whatever I am or am not, I am a work of God in progress—a sinner, saved by grace—trusting God to work through me to reflect His love to others. All good points to Him. Everything else points to His ongoing, future-focused work in me. And it is the same for everyone else.

I think the confusing part is when, in the moment, the results are not what we would have hoped. The past is set. The future is set. It is the present that can be challenging.

We all have the same potential of reflecting God’s love in real, transparent ways. Maybe we are thinking, “OK, but how?” Consider these thoughts:

• Be patient in the work He is doing. It makes sense to me that if we are accepted by a loving, merciful God who has our future perfection sealed in Himself, then we are free to explore life following His timeless principles, being led by His Spirit, cooperating with His work, and in some mysterious way, continuing to be made into His likeness along the way. I can be patient with His work in myself. And I can be patient with His work in others.

• Walk beside fellow travelers. Every day we cross paths with people in process. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord and begin to walk with Him, we intrinsically accept others as our fellow travelers. As God’s family, we are all already accepted by Him and set on a path to heaven. One day we will, together with all believers, be with Him. We will all be worshipping in His presence with no sin, no sickness, no suffering, and no confusion. But for now, we are on this path together.

• Forgive others. If there are hurts or confusion, we can forgive. Being forgiven marks us as believers forever so that forgiving others can be a statement of faith. Forgiveness recognizes God’s work in us and others. We are not the Judge. We are neither our own judge nor theirs. So we can love in real ways, in transparency, in faith, in forgiveness, and in authenticity, even now.

We are a people who are learning, growing, stumbling, suffering, and succeeding. Much of our living is a partial reflection of His glory. Much of what we will have, including the potential for complete authenticity, we simply have not yet attained. The promise is there. We sometimes stumble our way to heaven. But because of Christ, our future is sealed. Our perfection, our completion is coming. First Corinthians 13 talks much of love, but it also teaches us that “we know in part, then we will know fully.”

So if we, as believers, all have some parts of the Christian life already, and some not yet, we are all the same. We don’t have to hide. Perhaps we share our lives more carefully. Perhaps we consider the timing of what we share, or the impact it may have on others. Perhaps we wait. Perhaps we reach out. Perhaps we trust more slowly. But we do not have to hide.

Being authentic is an invitation to be free—already and not yet. Let’s take a step in that direction, trusting God with the past, future, and, perhaps harder, the present. Good things; God things; and God’s plans to bless us, grow us, and use us are all that waits.

The world waits for this kind of freedom.

 

Laura Harper is ministry consultant at WMU. She loves her family, coffee, chocolate, and all things missions.

 

 

 

 

 

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