“Authenticity”

Several quotes I have collected over the past few months have churned my heart, but none quite like John Lynch’s in his book The Cure when he asks, “What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?”

One of the most difficult fallouts from self-righteousness (See last month’s InYou Window) is hiding. Another is fixing. They’re much like two sides of the same coin really. The self-righteous person keeps his “head in the sand” hiding from his own weaknesses and failures, not realizing he’s “showing his tail” as someone more interested in appearance than authenticity. Who doesn’t want to make a good show of his Christian walk, right? Hide the flaws; promote the fixes. Yet John “coins” a more honest statement, which permits authenticity in the context of community, the only environment for real healing and hope.

Adam and Eve honed the skills of hiding and fixing right off, as their Father came to join them once again in the Garden of Eden the morning after their night of disobedience. With eyes now open to knowing right from wrong, being immediately enslaved by sin, and suddenly experiencing powerlessness to overcome it being weak in the flesh, the first two humans did what we’ve all been doing ever since: they hid themselves then tried to fix their own mess by clothing themselves in their own shame.

Someone wisely noticed, “Where sin is preached (against), sin abounds.” Why? Because, in the flesh, sinful passions are aroused by the Law. (See Rm. 7:5.) Perhaps the easiest preaching is condemnation, for who isn’t guilty of something? It’s easy to point out people’s faults. It stirs the soul, “steps on toes,” and convicts the conscience but does it offer any life? “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase” (Rm. 5:20), so why do we focus on do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations, rights and wrongs, should’s and shouldn’t s, only to increase the shame and encourage the hiding?

And you gotta wonder where the fire is burning in the one who spews fire and brimstone. Jesus saw this in the self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees: “You clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (Mt 23:25).  Those so busy pointing out the faults of others must be hiding something, covering their own inadequacies. So what some may see as good preaching is actually inauthentic, and in the end encourages hypocrisy. Not only is there hidden shame in the “minister of condemnation,” but also projected shame, for he can only give what he has received.

Yes, the natural byproduct of failing in a performance-based–acceptance (PBA) paradigm has to be shame. In shame we cannot be vulnerable. There’s far too great a risk of rejection, so we hide. Shame covers us like a fig leaf. Or maybe better: we cover ourselves in our own shame*—often the very thing we failed to perform rightly. We’re entangled in the sin, so we fake-it-till-we-make-it or we just go hide.

[*NOTE: I wonder if the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a fig tree. Why? Because the first thing Adam and Eve did was to cover themselves with fig leaves. How often do we keep on sinning in the same way since we now know we’re “damaged?” We wear our guilt as a garment and without forgiveness and grace we will never take it off!]

Well thank God we’re not under a PBA system. Quite the opposite, we are living in an acceptance-based-performance (ABP) paradigm of Grace! In the paradigm of grace (or Kingdom of God) there is no need to hide, for our acceptance with the Father is based solely on the performance of His Son. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” (1 Cor. 1:30). In the security and provision of His grace, we need not fix, for we are made complete: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3). Instead, we are “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

Doesn’t it make sense that what is broken can only be fixed in the light? In the light of Truth, we can see our inadequacies, weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings. And in the love of Grace, we need not hide them.

A PBA environment focused on behavior and accountability to the Law promotes hiding weaknesses and fixing faults in the power of the flesh in order to maintain an acceptable image.

An ABP environment focused on broken hearts that long for healing and hope promotes open disclosure of weakness in the power of the Spirit in order to reveal the One in whose image we are already made.

You have to admit: that which is hidden can never be fixed. And those who hide are seldom healed. Those who hide may not feel safe, but nether are they safe people. Not until they become exposed and own it are they able to heal. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Healing cannot come to the one who hides. And fixing isn’t healing.

Are you an authentic person?
Do you have an authentic group of Christian friends?
The measure of genuine joy and freedom in one’s life is proportionate to his or her level of authenticity.

NOTE: Unrighteousness is the result of the act of breaking the Law. Self-righteousness is the result of seeking to make oneself right again by that same Law (and apart from Grace).