Brief Thoughts: On Community and Authenticity

I.

What does it mean to be an authentic Christ follower?

Authentic Christianity--that term splashed across the internet, espoused in the pages of well-written books, preached ad nauseam from modern-day pulpits. Some are drunk with the notion that authenticity is found only in the spilling of our idolatrous histories from red-wine glasses or broad-brimmed cups of microbrews in bars where the happy hour banter is thinly coated with Jesus. Doubt is authentic. Adultery is authentic. Coffee stains on the front of your teeth are authentic.

Certainly, these are a facet of authenticity. After all, the truth is authentic.

II.

Some friends meet in a minister's home. Our community group has grown beyond manageable, and we are discussing our split into three smaller groups. Joseph, a joy-plagued friend, is perched on the arm of the couch drinking red wine from a coffee mug. We are talking about the hallmarks of our group and someone says that we are authentic. “What does that mean?” he asks.

We pause and he gives us space to consider the question.

“Authenticity is not reserved for the dirt of your life; it’s not relegated to righteous anger at the injustices of the world.” This is an immediately convicting statement. “A part of authenticity is learning to show authentic joy, how to authentically be in a good place. It’s okay not to be hurting all the time.”

I consider my stabs at authenticity, my attempts to over-identify with the down-and-out, my penchant for the melancholy. Maybe in our quest for authenticity, we’ve become mired in something else. Maybe we’re just playing a different version of the same age-old church game, the one we've accused our parents of playing.

III.

An authentic life is not measured in degrees of sin-sharing comfort. An authentic life is measured in totality.

IV.

There are corollaries to authentic life wreckage--ultimate joy and peace are found through reconciliation in the cross; reconciliation has a cost, but it’s reconciliation nonetheless; and joy comes in the morning, so if it is morning, celebrate the joy.

V.

Wisdom has mixed her wine, set her table, and invited us to dinner. There are some things worth celebrating authentically. Are you free to celebrate?

Well, are you?

Have you considered authenticity? What does it mean to you? What are the barriers to it? Have we stripped the term of meaning by its overuse? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.