When I was in high school I was the hip-hopping, basketballing, wanna-be gangsta rapper. I was passionate about being true to that image. You could say in high school, I was fresh:
I didn't look exactly like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but I did wear the baggy clothes, listen to hip hop music and walk around constantly dribbling a basketball. Fast forward seven years to now and my image is drastically different. My clothing has changed, my music tastes have sophisticated and I only occasionally walk around with a basketball - I'm having an identity crisis!
Ok, so maybe I'm over dramatising a little bit, but it's a question I've been reflecting on: what does it mean to be authentic? Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but I don't think we really understand what it means. Is authenticity about staying true to who you are and ignoring what other people suggest? Is it about sticking to your guns? While "being true to yourself" and "sticking to your guns" are nice sentiments, I think these are narrow definitions of authenticity.
I think authenticity is actually about being true to the journey God calls us to.
Along my faith journey I encountered God in others; and it made me question: what do people encounter in me? In high school I think people encountered a hip-hopping, basketballing, wanna-be gangsta rapper, who had no interest in the way other people did things. I don't think my school friends encountered God in me. I was authentic to my personality, but not authentic to my faith - which I value more than any of my likes or interests.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that we all have personalities, we all have quirks, we all have labels which we use to define our identity. These things aren't necessarily bad; but they can be a distraction or a barrier to people encountering God in you. If authenticity is only about being true to yourself, then that's all people will ever encounter in you.
I've kept this pretty surface level so far, but let's go a bit deeper. If we look at our church and our world and we're brutally honest, then we see there's still a lot of discrimination and prejudice out there, there are factions and cliques, there is a lot of unjustified hurt. We're at a point in history when technology and resources have never been so sophisticated, yet people are still suffering in our world - it's absurd! Are we as Christians responding to God's call?
If we're going to talk about being "authentic in our faith" or being "authentic Christians", then we need to get real about that. Authenticity needs to translate practically into our daily lives. I think what it comes down to is we all need to act on the question: how am I being God in my school/workplace/family/wherever?
When we reflect on that question honestly then we might have to make some changes in ourselves. That doesn't mean we're not being authentic to ourselves. But it does mean we begin to live more for others; and I think that is what authenticity is all about.