Authenticity. Now there’s an important word in our generation. Young people are fed up with fakeness and sick of sham. Not long ago a youth pastor told me that the kids in his youth group preferred listening to unpolished or even stammering speakers whom they perceived as genuine over speakers who were slick but inauthentic. Young people today are crying out for authenticity.
But I’m afraid that an irony often accompanies this quest for authenticity. Many of the same young people who place such a high value on authenticity daily present themselves on social media as funny, witty, independent, caring, or cool—when in real life they may be none of those. Those who shout loudest for authenticity in others often fake it themselves.
Honestly, I’ve recently grown to dislike the word authenticity because of the way the word has come to be used in contemporary discourse. Many of the young people I talk to view authenticity as acting in line with one’s feelings. They have been led to believe that they will only find meaning in life by discovering their own personal reality (that may, in fact, have little connection to real reality) and then live according to that. The quest to construct a personal reality and openly proclaim it is viewed as authenticity.
But real authenticity—authentic authenticity, if you will—cannot be based upon the way you feel; otherwise, what will happen when you start feeling something different tomorrow? A biblically-rooted authenticity must center on living according to what is true—about God and about what God has done in and for you through Christ.
So what is true? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). As someone in Christ, your real reality, your true truth is something you didn’t make up. If you have bought the lie that you need to construct a personal reality—that you are the maker of meaning and the source of your significance—then you have sold your birthright for a pot of porridge.
God declares that you are a new creation because of your connection to Jesus! This means that you must learn how to live according to that new reality. Do you long for an authentic life, a life that agrees with what God says about you? A biblically-authentic Christian affirms new life in Christ. A biblically-authentic Christian focuses on the truth that the old way of life has passed and a new reality has replaced it. A biblically-authentic Christian rejects false identities and personally-constructed “realities.” A biblically-authentic Christian lives like he or she is in Christ.
In its context, the declaration that the old has passed and the new has come means that the standard by which we evaluate people, including ourselves, is no longer human or worldly (literally in Greek, no longer according to the flesh, 2 Cor 5:16). So, even though we used to live for ourselves, we don’t live that way any longer; we live solely and completely for Christ (2 Cor 5:15).
I’m thinking of someone whose past is dreadful. The sheer number and intensity of hurts she has experienced in her relatively short life are unspeakable. But this lovely young woman has decided not to live according to her past. She has grounded herself in what the Bible says about her new life. She believes that she is in Christ, that the old has passed, and that the new has come. Now that’s an authentic life.
A truly authentic life is not dependent upon one’s feelings, but is lived in accord with the truth that we are new creations in Christ.
This post was adapted from chapter 16 of my book: How to Live an ‘In Christ’ Life: 100 Devotional Readings on Union with Christ