This is Pastor Dave writing to you from before taking my Sabbatical this summer.
Being authentic is being true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. Think about this. Romans 12:9a says “Love must be sincere.” The word “sincere” comes from the Latin words sine cera, which means “without wax”. This phrase comes from an ancient practice of hiding the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to make it appear of higher quality. Quality products were often stamped with the words sine cera to show they had not been tampered with. Paul is telling us to love in a way that is true, pure, genuine, and authentic.
The Greek word translated “sincere” is the word “anupokritos.” The last part of the word is our word hypocrite. The prefix “an” means “without.” So the Greek word actually means, “without hypocrisy.” In classical Greek the word “hypocrite” meant someone who wore a mask is a play. Once again we have the picture that Paul says the true believer should love without a mask. Our love should be real and not pretend. So it is not difficult to understand that love is to be “without wax” and “without hypocrisy”. Jesus was opposed to hypocrisy. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt 23:27).
Let’s look at this from the perspective of being the receiver of love. We have a responsibility to be “without wax” and “without hypocrisy” so that when we are shown love it is for who we really are, not who we pretend to be. This will cause us to actually feel true, authentic love.
In the children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit, two real rabbits come across a toy rabbit and wonder why anyone would want a fake rabbit. We can also wonder why anyone would want to be in relationship with someone who is not real or not honest about who they are. Would we rather be in relationship with a role someone is playing or with the actual person? Most of us would say the person, yet we continue to perpetuate the gap between reality and fantasy by acting out the parts we think people want to see.
Perhaps you are familiar with the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the story about a man who pursued a woman’s love by pretending to be someone he really wasn’t. Imagine if you were playing a part for someone, portraying a personality that is not fully your own and that person ended up loving you, would the love be real? Of course not and you would always wonder if they would rescind their love if they knew the real you.
Authenticity is when we are courageous enough to allow our outward appearance to match our inward state. Often we need to let go of who we think we should be in order to be authentic about who we are. We need to be real about who we are, what we struggle with, what we are going through, and allow people to see us for who we are. We need to draw strength and courage from God in order to extend an invitation for others to love us right there, despite the flaws, just as Christ does. Authenticity, like faith, is not something you either have or don’t have, it is a collection of choices that we have to make in every day circumstances.
One time, I, Dave, was leading a worship practice on a Friday night with the band but unfortunately, toward the end of practice, I broke a guitar string. No big deal, it happens. After practice was over, I committed to purchase new strings the next day and then I would be all set for the Sunday service. The only problem was that Sunday rolled around and it was not until about five minutes before the service that I looked down at my guitar and realized that I had completely forgotten to buy the new strings. I totally dropped the ball. I quickly showed the worship team what a five-string acoustic guitar was and apologized for forgetting. They were gracious and said, “Well, you can play without it.” That was nice of them, but in my head it still really bothered me. In my head, I wasn’t being so nice to myself. In fact, what I noticed was this self-destructive internal monologue happening inside of me. You know that little voice that talks to you in your head? I was calling myself a failure, telling myself that everything I touch turns to stone, and really just beating myself up.
As a worship team, we went into an office to pray before church and I said to the team, “Hey, I have something to say. I feel really bad about this guitar string, can you guys help me? I have this failure conversation happening in my head, and it’s not good. It’s really going to affect me this whole service, would you pray for me about this?” The bass player said, “Sure!” and he did. Thank God, the service was fine (minus one string!), which was not ideal, but most people never noticed. But here is what was so meaningful about this – after church, the bass player came to me and said, “Hey thanks for being honest with us this morning about how you were feeling. We are blessed to have you as our pastor.” That mistake provided a moment for authenticity and a deeper connection was made that would not have otherwise been made. And that in and of itself is really valuable.
My point is, one way you can minister to people is to admit that you struggle too. Sometimes, you don’t exactly know how to share that with people but it’s worth learning how to do it. Just be honest and say “Hey, here’s my issue, and here’s what I’m doing about it, can you pray with me?” If you will take the risk and be vulnerable, showing others that you’re broken too, then I believe that will bear much fruit. People love to see inside of us because that’s their world too. They can identify with people who are less than perfect – so take the risk and make the connection. As we grow in sharing ourselves in an authentic way, we open the door to vulnerability.