It’s been said that “the destination is not as important as the journey.” The spiritual path of following Jesus is also better understood as a journey rather than a destination. It’s a process of learning and growing, not about arriving somewhere and having it all figured out suddenly. Having and developing relationships, which is deeply part of what it means to follow Jesus, also involves a journey of sorts. We can’t figure relationships out completely, but I do think we can all adapt a certain posture of learning in relationships so we can make the most of them. If we want to have relationships rooted in authenticity and indeed be people rooted in authenticity, then the following few blog posts may provoke some meaningful reflection, or perhaps conversation with others, about what it could mean to be authentic people who follow Jesus. To get us started, here’s an insert from chapter five of my book on the need to learn what it means to be authentic:
In the last chapter, we considered how the self-made project inevitably leaves us disconnected from others. When life is all about you, it simply can’t be about others too, let alone about living to serve the betterment of others. True and meaningful friendships (what I am calling authentic relationships) with people are simply not possible within that mental framework and approach to life. The pursuit of greatness within the self-made project lends itself to a life lived emotionally isolated and to relationships that severely lack authenticity.
In order to become authentic people who make room for authentic relationships, we need to first replace the self-made project with an entirely new way of approaching life. The servant project is that way. Jesus pioneered this new mind-set and way of life—leading the way forward—for us. Living in this way of life is what being a “Christian” is truly all about.
When you no longer live to serve yourself alone but instead live to serve the betterment of others, new possibilities begin to emerge in your life. Living authentically and forming authentic relationships is one of those possibilities.
Some of you may be asking, “OK, Peter, I understand that following Jesus has to do with serving others. Once we embrace this way of life, what practical things can be done to become a more authentic person?”
Exploring this question is where we have been heading from the start of the book and is what this present chapter is all about.
So take a seat, grab a good cup of coffee (or tea for my British friends), and let’s consider how we might move toward a more authentic Christianity.
Sometimes it’s the seemingly obvious things in life that we miss and ignore the most. Believe it or not, what I’m about to share is not new, and many of these answers and insights have been sitting right in front of you all along. For some, they may seem new because it’s the first time you’ve ever heard them put forward the way I am doing in this chapter. But they are not new. My prayer and hope is—whether they seem new or not—that you might discover fresh ways to put into practice these “not new” truths in your life.
In the introduction, I defined authenticity as the quality of being genuine and true with yourself, with others, and with God. Inauthenticity, on the other hand, is the quality of being dishonest and disingenuous. Inauthenticity involves hiding and pretending who you are, whereas authenticity (oppositely) involves living openly and honestly in relationships with others.
As with priceless works of art, when something is authentic, it is the genuine article. If you’ve learned anything about the history surrounding the Mona Lisa painting by the famous Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci, you may also be familiar with the controversy surrounding a couple of other versions of the Mona Lisa that showed up after da Vinci’s death (not to mention the controversy over who the historical figure was whom he painted). Different theories have been shared in recent history regarding whether or not these other versions of the Mona Lisa were the actual paintings by da Vinci himself, by contemporaries, or by pupils of his. In other words, were they authentic?1
In a similar way, the question of authenticity can be applied to human behavior, intentions, and motives. Are we truly who we present ourselves to be with others? Are we characteristically honest and genuine with people we know and interact with on a daily basis?
Or rather oppositely, are we hiding and pretending to be something we are not—merely living out fake versions of ourselves?”
The above is taken from chapter five, “Moving toward authentic Christianity,” of Peter’s book Authentic Christianity: Why it matters for followers of Jesus. The following blog will pick up where this left off in chapter five on the essential quality (and need) we have to practice honesty and how honesty impacts all of our relationships.