With all the recent media attention given to Beyonce’s singing (or not) of the National Anthem at the Presidential Inaugaration I thought it may be a good time to share some thoughts on authenticity. There was a commercial from the early 1970’s – yes I’m dating myself but let’s suffice it to say I was very young and barely remember the commerical 🙂 The commerical was for Memorex tapes which were used for recording purposes. They featured Ella Fitzgerald singing a note that shattered a glass while being recorded to a Memorex audiotape. The tape was then played back and the recording also broke the glass as the announcer voice asked “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” The point was that the recording was so close to the real thing that you couldn’t tell the difference between the two. People have always been fascinated with the real versus fake stories in which something we thought to be real was revealed a fake – think “Lance Armstrong doping scandal”, “Manti Te’o fake girlfriend”, “runaway bride from Georgia”, and the heartbreaking story of Susan Smith of South Carolina. These stories make for headlines that we just can’t seem to get enough of.
I think the fascination comes from our instinctive desire for authenticity. We want people to be real and we want to believe them when they appeal to our emotions in an effort to make us buy into their story. We want a happy ending for them, we cheer on the apparent victim and our hearts ache for those in seemingly impossible situations who display incredible strength and hope. We want desperately for their story to have a positive outcome. And then there’s the letdown – the moment we turn on the news and confirm our doubts and suspicions that it was all a big fake. Dozens of these stories over the years have created a cynicism among us that causes us to question every story and every person as we wonder “are they for real?” Whether a person’s behavior is good or bad, we just want them to be real and authentic. That’s why many celebrities with less than stellar reputations have such a following of supporters. They may behave horribly but in people’s minds “at least they’re being who they really are and not pretending to be something they’re not.”
We long for authenticy because it’s part of our design. We were created to seek what is real and what is true. In a perfect world that longing would lead us to Jesus. But for many of us we are drawn to what seems real only to find ourselves fooled by imposters. The enemy of our souls is a master deceiver and he uses his abilities to draw us into believing in something or someone other than Christ. Many times the fakes are packaged so well it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
Because we instinctively seek that which is authentic, we can be incredibly scarred when we believe something to be real only to find out it never was. People who are seemingly real wield great power to influence those desperately seeking something or someone who is genuine. Sometimes that is used to bring great harm to those who believe the lie. Jim Jones and David Koresh are just two of many such individuals who took advantage of people who were seeking the truth only to later to be revealed as masters of deception.
The impact that such deception, whether intentional or simply by the succeptibility to failure of the human nature, ranges from mild letdown to devastating hurt. Many have put their trust and faith in a person, a job, an organization, a church or an ideology only to be forever damaged by broken trust and crushed faith when they found that what they believed to have been true and real was not.
There is only One in whom we can securely put our trust and faith in. And with great confidence we can believe everything He says to be true because He has never failed, never been anything other than who He says He is. His love for us displayed in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, is proof that His love is real. For those willing to say they believe, He reveals Himself fully as the Truth. But many find it hard to believe and hard to trust because their previous misplaced trust and faith has brought them great pain in the past. So they respond with disbelief and doubt.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are charged with sharing His truth with those who doubt. And if we are to be successful in influencing them to share in what we already know to be real, we must first be authentic ourselves. People must see Christ through us so that we are not setting them up for letdown. If we are solely depending on our own abilities to influence others we are risking failure and loss of trust. But when they see Christ in us, we cannot fail because He never fails to be anything but authentic.
The way we do this is by spending time with God through prayer, reading His Word, and spending time with other believers who seek the same. In doing so we are molded more and more into God’s image and that becomes what is reflected to others when they encounter us in the workplace, in school, in our neighborhoods or in the community. And we must always guard our hearts against the deception and temptation of the enemy. There are many people in the world today seeking something real and we have the opportunity to show them God by being authentic ourselves. We must take our responsibility seriously and refrain from actions and behaviors that would compromise that opportunity for influence.
As humans we were made to seek that which is truth. If you are a believer, make sure you do everything you can to ensure that when they meet you they’ll see the authenticy of Christ in you. Unlike Memorex, being a real good copy will never have the same impact as being 100% real. Make sure when someone asks “are they for real?” the answer is a resounding yes!