Are you for real?
by Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel –
I heard it again this week as the lady at the counter blurted out the unconscious response: “Are you for real?” She was fuming because she had trusted in the authenticity of the salesman. Her senses had been dulled by a million marketing messages, and she had been suckered into believing the promise of what could realistically be delivered. But she was dumbfounded to discover the promise and the spin did not now click with her reality. She said it again: “Are you for real?”
Daily experiences like this remind us that this question of authenticity has touched so many aspects of our American society that people now tend to believe that “things are seldom what they seem”(Gilbert & Sullivan). In fact, our culture and socialization process encourages us to accept the imposter syndrome or other forms of deception as being the norm. All in the same day last week I watched snippets of Dr. Phil about a fake rabbi performing a wedding in Las Vegas; received an e-mail phishing scam from a long lost “family-member” asking for money for a medical emergency, and read a news report about a zoo in Gaza creating a fake zebra by painting a donkey with stripes. Art is like life, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
These issues are but tiny streaks in a much broader picture of living without authenticity. We genuinely lack confidence that the many people we deal with are who they say they are. We are initially skeptical about resumes that seem too good to be true. We regularly deal with the continuing challenge of Internet social networking, with switched identities and fake profiles, adapting our lives to the philosophy of trust-but-verify. We raise eyebrows at low odometer readings on used cars, and reluctantly accept that computer technology offers increasing possibilities for deception through digital retouching and computer-generated images. In an era that encourages selling ourselves in the best possible light and doing what it takes to look good, we have come to expect body and facial redesigns that regularly beg the question: “Are you for real?”
Authenticity, or being for real, is an important social resource but it is also of prime value and significance in our Christian life. Is anyone looking at your Christian walk or talk and asking the question: “Are you for real?” Do you love to go by the name of Christ but yet refuse to walk “blameless and pure, as children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation” (Philippians 2:15)? Is your lifestyle an unabashed display of a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5)? Are you one of those who read the Bible regularly, lead praise and worship enthusiastically, listen to Christian CD’s daily, tune in to Christian media religiously, attend Christian workshops faithfully, and even feel socially responsible, but have never laid down your life as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1)? Is it possible to go so far and still not be authentic?
Consider the Pharisees during the time of Christ. They had good intentions. They patterned their behavior after the scripture, dressed in holy garments, but practiced a faith that was simply a superficial show of religion. Consider also what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’!”
Happily, this does not have to be our benediction. God provides the ways and means for an authentic Christian life (John 8:51). We have the truth that salvation is found only in Christ. We know that our testimony is validated by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, and we can be confident in the promise that he gives us the power to live godly lives).
That is for real!