This book is about authenticity and why authenticity matters.
In life and in relationships.
Why it matters for all human beings.
And yes, why it matters for Christians.
What is authenticity?
It’s “the quality of being genuine and true.”1
Genuine and true in relationships with others, God, and ourselves.
It’s being honest about who you really are, what is really going on in your life, what you really think, and what you really believe.
Inauthenticity, or lacking authenticity, is the opposite. It’s the quality of being disingenuous and dishonest. It’s hiding and pretending about who you really are, what is really going on in your life, what you really think, and what you really believe.
Most of us want to be authentic people, but many of us don’t know how to go about it.
True and meaningful relationships with others require it; however, most of us hesitate to take the risk authenticity involves and/or we simply don’t know how to navigate the territory.
Over the years of my involvement and work within Christian churches, I have met few people who are able to tap into the depths of authenticity. But those who have seem to possess an uncanny ability to make people they know or meet feel quickly at ease around them. They are people who others find relatable, transparent, humble, and honest.
They are not perfect people. They simply value being genuine and honest with others because they recognize that these qualities are essential to any kind of relationship and friendship.
Simply put, they allow themselves to be known, and they seek to know others.
And because of this, they experience life a bit more fully, and their relationships are a bit richer.
They have discovered that following Jesus takes on new and fresh meaning when the doors of authenticity are opened.
It is risky for sure.
No question about that.
But they will tell you that people are worth the risk.
And there is something good that begins happening within your heart as you take those risks.
Early on in my faith, I had the chance to get to know some very authentic people, and their willingness to be known helped to shape my life in profound ways.
I am not always someone who exudes authenticity, but I am learning to lean into it more and more as I get older—having experienced the ups and downs of life, including the good and not-so-good parts of each relationship I have—and move forward in discovering afresh what it means to follow Jesus today.
You see, I believe that the authenticity involved in relationships with others is not something totally detached from spirituality or faith in Jesus. On the contrary, following Jesus has everything to do with this life here and now, including the way we go about engaging in human relationships.
We live in a time when the label (or description) Christian is all too often polarizing in the political spectrum and wider world, and more often than not for reasons that don’t truly reflect or represent the Jesus who shows up on the pages of the New Testament, not to mention our lives today. No matter your political stances and views, the call of Jesus to be the light of the world means (at least) that those who follow him should aspire to rise above the political debacles and actually be people with whom others (both Christians and others who may not identify with Jesus or life in him) might discover something good, something real and true—in other words, authentic—that is transformative for their lives.
Authenticity, then, is not simply about developing true and genuine relationships among fellow Christians and within Christian churches. It is also about how we are to live and relate to people in our world. It involves the way in which we reflect and point people to the one we call “Lord.”
In the following pages, I am going to share some experiences from life that have helped create space for me to consider what it might mean to be both a follower of Jesus and someone who values and practices authenticity as a way of life. Some of these experiences come out of my involvement and work within Christian churches over the years, and some of them have been in the workplace outside of the walls and direct influence or leadership of Christian people.
Out of these experiences, I learned a few things that have been transformative in how I relate to God, others, and (even) in how I treat myself. My hope is that in writing them down for you, you might also discover glimpses into a more authentic way of living and relating to others—a more authentic expression of Christianity.
My encouragement to you at the beginning of this book is to be patient with whatever process may begin to happen inside you as you read and consider the hopeful but challenging message it contains.
Before we begin with chapter 1, I want to acknowledge that there is likely a good mixture of those who identify as “Christians” and those who do not who pick up this book for a wide variety of reasons.
While the main message of this book is addressed to those who share a common faith in Jesus, I am grateful that those who do not have joined in on this conversation. This is your conversation too, perhaps more than you presently realize, and I kept you in mind as I wrote.
My hope and prayer is that whether you identify with Jesus in any way or not, you might discover some new ways of approaching what it means to live authentically that will be transformative for your life and in your sphere of influence.
And so…Authentic Christianity and Why It Matters for Followers of Jesus.