Have you noticed people talking about authenticity lately? It seems to be the new ‘buzzword’. Whether it’s in politics, news stories, or even in church circles, being authentic is in. I find it all a little goofy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of being genuine, transparent, authentic. I just find it strange being real is a rare enough trait that it’s held up as something special.
It’s especially troubling in the church. Why is it so difficult for Christians to be really real? What makes us so hesitant to share our pain and struggles? Maybe we think we are honoring God by pretending that living for Him is all sunshine and rainbows. We have this notion that God needs our help in protecting His image. And, often the way we do this is by trying to gloss over the less than palatable stuff. We do it in our own lives, yes, but even worse, we tend to do this with what God reveals to us in the Bible!
I meet with a small group of young women on Sunday nights. This year we’re studying women in the Bible. We’re starting off with Jesus’ genealogy. First up, Tamar. Have you read her story (Genesis 38)? It’s hardly one to put in the ‘Family Memory Book’! In fact, all four women listed in Matthew 1 have stories with ‘not nice’ details. Tamar arranged to sleep with her father-in-law, Rahab was a prostitute, Bathsheba committed adultery, Ruth was a heathen Moabite.
And yet, these are the women the Holy Spirit led Matthew to include. Makes our attempts to ‘shine up’ God’s image a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? Think about it: if God was worried about His reputation being tarnished by these messed up stories, why are they in the Bible? Since the Holy Spirit inspired every single word, I’m pretty sure He could have arranged for these particular words not to be included!
Some of the commentaries I’ve read make a point of saying Rahab wasn’t really a prostitute. No, that was just what they called inn-keepers back then. Seriously?! To me that pretty much sums up this whole authenticity thing. If we cannot allow the Bible to say what it says, without trying to sweeten it up so it goes down more easily, no wonder we spend so much of our energy trying to cover our own less-than-savory parts! It’s crazy!
No, it’s not crazy, it’s sin. When we present a fake, cleaned up face to the world, we’re essentially saying God only loves us when we get our act together. We’re saying God is not capable of handling the sins of the world. We’re saying the Gospel alone is not enough. And when we substitute in our weak, watered down version for the Living, Holy Lord God Almighty, what else can we call it? It is sin.
It’s not easy to be open and honest. I know that. But, being fake is sin. Ouch. Blessed are the real. The ones who are unashamed to be themselves because their stories have been redeemed by Jesus. Really, how cool is it that God knows us – every bit of us – and still loves us?! Isn’t that what the world needs to hear?
If I show the world the real me, it’s gotta show how incredible God is. I mean, if God can love someone like me, there’s hope for everyone! After all, like the women in Jesus’ genealogy, He calls each one of us by name. That is really worth sharing, don’t you think?