16 October 2015

Authenticity vs. Christlikeness

"Authenticity" has been a buzz word in church lately. Maybe these are just the churches I've attended or the podcasts I've heard, but still: there is a push toward being real, toward being yourself. And while I'm all about dropping facades and letting go of the fake "I'm fine," I don't know if I buy into authenticity being the answer to spiritual sickness.

I imagine that a few generations back, authenticity wasn't so much in the equation. Whether at home, school, work, or even church, buzz words were probably more like discipline, duty, and loyalty. And while authenticity does surface such important things as insecurity and depression, it certainly turns the focus back on the individual--which can be dangerous if that person's desires oppose the Word of God.
  • We tell a teenager to "find himself." What does that mean? Does it mean to abandon responsibility in search of inner peace?
  • We tell a housewife to "be herself." What does that mean? Does it mean to escape from the home and pursue dreams that are denied her by her family's needs?
  • We tell a missionary to "take care of himself." What does that mean? Does it mean to leave the field in the middle of a project in order to seek physical or emotional health?

These are hard questions. And they go beyond a single word. Still, they are important questions because our generation takes the word "authenticity" and runs with it. We take it as a free pass to do what we want instead of what we need to do. So we need some parameters on authenticity. . . or at least I do.

Because: sometimes we do need to stop. Sometimes we do need to "abandon responsibility" or "escape from the home" or "leave the field." But when? And when is it simply self-centered?

For the believer, Christlikeness is our goal. It is sanctification, and it is gradual, progressive, continual. So can we substitute our new buzz word with the more traditional objective of Christianity? I would argue no, not entirely. The pursuit of behavioral perfection can (and often does) lead to legalism, Pharisaical tendencies, and judgmental attitudes. In other words, someone can be faking Christlikeness. (Wasn't Judas?)

Ironically, it is good to be Christlike only if we are striving to be authentic

Conversely, it is good to be authentic only if we are striving for Christlikeness.

We can tell a brother or sister in Christ to "be you" or "find yourself" or "take care of yourself" if that person is pursuing Christ, if he or she desires God more than anything else. Another focus could very well take authenticity as permission to forgo Biblical priorities in the name of health, ambition, or self-respect.

So these two words are not in opposition to each other. Quite the opposite--they must blend into a fused pursuit, a merged desire, a unified goal.

We are to be authentic, and we are to be Christlike.
We are to be authentically Christlike.

Abide in Him,

Can you think of a time you (or someone you know) chose authenticity but were not simultaneously choosing Christlikeness?
What kinds of accountability should we solidify in our lives to keep us both authentic and Christlike?

This post is part of a discussion on Authenticity at Velvet Ashes' The Grove.

Related articles you may also appreciate:
When Sacrifice Is Wrong
The Siren Call of Earthly Significance
Good Works, Faith, and the Fruitless Fig Tree
Farsighted Missions vs. The Unheroic Everyday
The Boastful Pride of (Missions) Life


  1. Malia, thanks so much for these thoughts. I currently know a situation where someone is choosing authenticity but not Christlikeness - and it's so sad! I appreciate you reminding us that striving for one without the other (authenticity and christlikeness) is dangerous. Thanks for bringing balance as we discuss Authenticity. It's too easy to swing too far and become self-centered.

    "So these two words are not in opposition to each other. Quite the opposite--they must blend into a fused pursuit, a merged desire, a unified goal.

    We are to be authentic, and we are to be Christlike.
    We are to be authentically Christlike."

    love these words.

    1. You're welcome! I'm sorry to hear about your friend's choice to pursue authenticity but not simultaneously Christ.

  2. These are great thoughts, Malia. And like Michele, I agree that it is so good to have the two values balance each other out. I would say that true authenticity for someone who walks with Jesus will be Christlike, if we have the mind of Christ and are being renewed by him daily (which is his promise to believers), we can also trust that our authenticity is a place of freedom that will keep leading us back to God.

    1. I love how you've said this--thank you!


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