Authenticity. It’s a buzzword that’s everywhere. It’s in business. It’s in pop culture. It’s in the church. And while the term isn’t found when doing a word search in the Bible, the idea of being genuine and honest certainly is. The problem with authenticity is that it’s morphed into a cover for brazenly bad behavior even amongst Christians. People use crass language in the name of “keeping it real.” They treat others like dirt because “I’m tired of faking it.” They brag about – even glamorize – unwise decisions because “it’s who I am.” That’s not authenticity. It’s sin masquerading as authenticity.
True authenticity never requires crass language, putting others down, or bragging about sin. It simply means admitting our shortcomings and not pretending to be someone we’re not. But there is a right and wrong way to do that. The wrong way makes it all about us. Our “authenticity” is really just a cry for attention. The right way makes it all about God and others. That kind of authenticity comes when we maintain a posture of gentleness, humility, and repentance.
Being honest and real about who we are is an important value in our culture and rightfully so. No one likes a fake. But if you are a Christian – especially a Christian leader – then please, manage your image. Your online image that is. By all means be honest. But that might mean saying nothing at all.
Don’t belittle people on social media. Don’t spread gossip. Don’t engage in senseless debate. Don’t provoke people unnecessarily. Don’t reinforce people’s stereotypes of Christians. Basically, don’t be a jerk. What you say online lives forever.
Authenticity is a trendy word to use these days, especially in the church. In addition to being overused, I would argue that we don’t really love authenticity the way we say we do. If we’re honest (and isn’t that the point of authenticity?), most of us aren’t sure we really want it that bad. Being fully known sounds freeing. It is freeing. But most of us are scared to death of letting others know who we really are inside – our darkest thoughts, our worst secrets, and our deepest fears.
What’s more, we aren’t entirely sure how to handle it when someone is truly authentic. There’s a part of us that admires that person and secretly wishes we had the same level of guts. At the same time, what are we supposed to do with this new information – act like we don’t know about it? Do we really want to know the junk in other people’s lives? Authenticity sounds like a good idea. But there’s a reason it doesn’t happen more often. Maybe we should get to the bottom of that before we spend too much time talking about being authentic.