I hear a lot of references to “real” or “authentic” Christianity. Sometimes I wonder what exactly is meant by this.
If wholeheartedly living for God, admitting failures with honest transparency, and modeling humble repentance is meant, then I am on board. If a lifestyle of compromise, sprinkled with candid, but unrepentant confessions is meant, then I think I’d just as soon miss that boat.
Do you see the difference?
We can’t touch the lives of others in any deep or lasting way if we refuse to be genuine. Putting on a polished and perpetually happy Christian veneer does not convince anyone that Jesus is the answer they have been looking for. Plastic Christianity may be an attempt to make God look good, but really we are just making ourselves untouchable.
People won’t talk to me if they have no reason to think I can relate to any of their struggles. I can’t be an example of what it looks like to follow Christ in adversity if I pretend like I have none. My Christianity has little value to anyone else if I am unwilling to be vulnerable enough to share my hurts, doubts, questions, and attitudes. I can only model true repentance if I admit I have something to repent of. Proclaiming the victory has a lot more meaning when the audience is informed of the battle. If this is what is meant by authentic, transparent, and real—then yes—we need it if we hope to have any lasting effect on those around us.
However, these same words are used to excuse a rather pathetic and undisciplined form of Christianity. Basically it looks like this: we live for ourselves, refuse to tame our appetites or our tongues, indulge in rotten attitudes, and just generally make a habit of compromising whenever it suits us. Then we admit to these ‘struggles,’ recognize that we’re all just human afterall, and go on our merry way without any intention of changing a thing.
It’s really quite nice. We pat each other on the back for our transparency and at the same time feel validated in our own sin by everyone else’s weaknesses and compromises.
I’m not talking about smoking, language, or church attendance. And I’m not talking about new believers who don’t know any better.
I’m talking about behavior that the word of God categorically condemns. And I’m talking about those of us who know what it says.
The New Testament has lists of behaviors that indicate a person is not following God (1 Cor 6:9-10; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5-7; Col 3:9). Among these are selfishness, greediness, impurity, gossip, envy, disputes, dissensions, lying, and unethical business practices.
It is one thing to fall in one of these areas, grieve over our sin, and repent. It is quite another to have a cute, mischievous chuckle about it, shrug it off as part of being human, and continue to practice it. Habits of deceit, gossip, indulging in greed and selfishness, and petty bickering are not harmless. And celebrating such habits is certainly not authentic Christianity.