As I stated in my earlier post, authenticity is good. It’s much better than being “inauthentic” or “dishonest” or lying or keep up appearances.
But to suggest that authenticity is a sufficient criterion for determining what is right is to over-empower it. Or, to put it in a way that gets at the heart of what follows: arguing for action based on “authenticity” represents an over-realized eschatology. For now we are not yet what we shall one day be. Until that happens, “who we are” is no clear indicator of what we should be doing.
There are several important angles for approaching the question of authenticity. One of these is what we discussed last time: being authentic about our struggles, shortcomings, sins, and other messy moments conduces to a healthy community of faith (and healthy witness to those who don’t have any faith). It stems the pretension that can lead to charges of hypocrisy and sets us on firmer footing with one another.
Another important angle for approaching the question of authenticity is the poly-cultural embodiment of the gospel. When we see the good news of Jesus crossing from Jewish into Gentile worlds, the church determines quickly that the religious, and cultural trappings of Judaism cannot be imposed on the Gentiles as a requirement to be received into the people of God. Parallels might be brought into the discussion from our modern context: each culture is permitted to create worship forms that are authentic expressions of honor and thankfulness to God.
But at the narrative dynamic of the Christian message is not simply that God wants us to be honest, or that God wants to create a multi-cultural people glorifying him with one voice. More fundamental than either of these is that we are redeemed from an old way of life, by the death of Jesus, and into a new way of life, empowered by Jesus’ resurrection.
The truth-telling to which we are called is an expression of our new identity “in Christ,” where God is our father. The new multi-cultural community is one in which Christ has accepted us to the glory of God–precisely by redeeming us from our sinful ways that left us short of the glory of God.
In other words, Christianity is about redemption, not mere affirmation. This means it is about transformation.
And if our story is about transformation, then we will always have to weigh what we want to do, what feels right for us to do against the very real possibility that our desire is an expression of the old humanity rather than the new.
We live between the times. This means that the new identity which is ours in Christ is something we are living into. We must still actively pursue a life which is “walking by the Spirit,” because the “flesh sets its desire against the Spirit.” As a people in the process of being transformed from our conformity to the patterns of one way of life into the new way of life made available to those who have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” there is always the distinct possibility that we will want what we are being redeemed from rather than that into which we are being transformed and to which we are being called.
One day we will simply be living full new life in Christ, such that all we authentically are and desire will be pleasing in the sight of God.
But until then, we are called to “put to death the deeds of the flesh” which are the integral and therefore authentic ways of being outside of Christ.
What on earth does this have to do with anything? As any good biblical scholar would, I put off specific point of application. But only until tomorrow or so. Stay tuned!