Recently I was told a story about a young lady who wrote an article for her school newspaper entitled, “Why I Am Not a Christian”. I need to mention that her school is a large, well-known Christian school…and that she is a vibrant follower of Jesus who has been involved in ministry with her family for most of her young life. Yet, she no longer wants to be known as a Christian, but as a follower of Jesus. At 16, attending a Christian school and being involved in a church since she was in the womb, this young woman has already seen what it took me another twenty years to figure out.
There is a grave lack of authenticity behind the title Christian in America.
I guess there has always been a segment of the Church who would rather talk the Christian talk than walk the walk…it isn’t easy being authentic. “The instinct to protect ourselves by living divided lives emerges when we are young, as we start to see the gaps between life’s bright promise and its shadowy realities,” (Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness). We inevitably arrive at adulthood “masked and armored”. Palmer states that the world often punishes authenticity, which leads us to fear of living authentic lives. It’s just easier, we think, to live the lie of what others think I am or should be. The fear then leads to cowardice. “The divided life may be destructive, but at least I know the territory, while what lies beyond it is terra incognita”, (Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness).
So, a false self is adopted and out of that, as a believer, comes a lot of what I call Christianese:
Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that (so and so is sick, in the hospital, etc)- I’ll be praying for him/her, (if I think about it, again).
Authentic: Can we pray together for him/her right now? Does he/she need a visit/meal?
Our lives are just SO BUSY that we don’t have time for community with other believers outside of Sunday services, (or fellowship or …)
Authentic: Yes, we’re busy like everyone else, but community is vital to body life and to my life, so something else has to go in order for me to be part of community life.
I simply don’t have time for Bible study or prayer, but wow, I admire those who do! Amen, praise God! Pass the potatoes!
Authentic: Some days it’s tougher to find the time than others, but time with my Father is my food and drink; it sustains me each day. If Jesus needed it, then I need it more. Help me, Father.
If you have been in the church awhile, you can probably think of many more examples of Christianese and I don’t want to harp. I must wonder, however, why we are willing to mask and defeat the brilliant soul God created within each of us in exchange for…what? Counterfeits, sawdust, weariness…yes, it’s wearisome to know the truth and live a lie, to settle for the counterfeit that the enemy offers day after day.
And yet, “No one wants to suffer the penalties that come from living divided no more. But there can be no greater suffering than living a lifelong lie,” (Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness).
How, how do we live a life of wholeness and authenticity?? First, by accepting the truth of my own brokenness (which is) unbearable if not impossible without turning to Christ. If my vision of myself is not purified by the mercy and compassion of Jesus, I have to get dishonest, camouflage my warts, and present to you a self that is mostly admirable, fault free, and superficially happy. (Brennan Manning)
How are you today?
Great! God is good! (but she just lost her job).
Authentic: I’ve had a rough day today. Would you pray with me?
WE ALL HAVE DONE IT. That’s my point. There have been times when we have all chosen the Christianese answer or presentation over being genuine or vulnerable. For whatever reason each of us has, it feels safer to wear the mask, but believe me, it is a false belief.
Secondly, we all need a balance of solitude and community – solitude with God and community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We were created to need both.
In Acts 20:17-38, Paul gathered the elders of Ephesus around him as he prepared to go to Jerusalem. His message to these men is beautiful as he rehearsed what he had done while he was among them and the hardships that had occurred. Paul reminded them that he had not hesitated to proclaim to them the “whole will of God” and had for three years never stopped warning them of what was to come. He did not sugarcoat the Gospel. I think it is safe to say that Paul did not use Christianese with any group of believers; he never failed to be authentic, at no time waffled concerning the truth. As a result, these men wept, embraced and kissed him at his departure because he told them that they would never see him again.
Did Paul suffer for being authentic for the Gospel? Certainly. Was Paul loved and rewarded for being authentic for the Gospel of Jesus? Absolutely.
And so shall we…