ancient-architecture-building-2220422“Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Christians, we want to be perceived as authentic.  We want to share the love of God with others, and likewise be loving people.  We want to not just talk about God’s forgiveness, but be forgiving ourselves.

Admittedly, it is hard to be authentic all the time. And frankly, we often are inauthentic for very good reasons. We may act nicer than we really are at the beginning of a relationship, just so the relationship has a chance of succeeding. Or, we may not say what we really think to spare someone’s feelings. Those are valid reasons to say or do things that don’t reflect who we really are or what we really think.

But most of the time, we should behave in an authentic manner. Particularly for Christians, what we say and do should match what we claim to believe.

People can smell inauthentic behavior a mile away. For instance, I know people who like to wear their Christianity on their sleeves. They will be the first to tell you how much they love Jesus. They will tell you how they go to church every Sunday, and how they love to host Bible studies in their living rooms on Wednesday nights.

But they aren’t nice people. They are exclusionary and unkind. They revel in judging others. Their brand of Christianity reeks of inauthenticity. What they claim to believe has nothing to do with how they act.

You fool no one by being inauthentic. Everyone knows who you really are. In fact, the most trustworthy people I know are the ones who don’t put on a show. For example, at my church, everyone is very nice. But some people can be a little bit more abrasive than others. Do you know what? I love the abrasive people. I know that they aren’t trying to be something that they are not. They are authentic, and I know that what they do, say and believe all line up.

The people I trust in life are not the ones who claim to be perfect people. I trust the ones who accidentally may not say or do the right thing, but who always try to say and do the right thing. I trust the folks who are working hard to follow Jesus, and who freely admit that it isn’t always easy.

I trust the folks whose actions reflect their beliefs. For example, last summer, my husband was in the hospital for over a month. We had a lot of prayers and support during this time. But I had one friend from church who went above and beyond the call of duty. She asked me for updates every couple of days which she shared with the congregation. She offered me positive thoughts and prayers throughout that long hospital journey. I was able to count on her in my greatest moment of need.

My friend is the type of person who, on occasion, will leave a gift on my front porch for no reason. She quietly serves the church without ever seeking praise. Every one of her actions is consistent with her beliefs. To me, she is the truest Christian that I know, and she is one of the most trustworthy people that I have ever met.

What is hard for many of us, as Christians, is that we would like to be a whole lot nicer. We would like to be a lot more generous. And we would all like to be able to forgive easily. But that is challenging. We are fallible human beings.

However, being an authentic Christian isn’t about being perfect. It is about being yourself. It is about saying, “I’m not perfect, but every day I am trying to grow into who God wants me to be. I’m not perfect, but every day, I am trying to become a kinder, more generous and more welcoming person.” Being authentic is, in part, about being humble and admitting your imperfections.

The good news is that for Christians (and really for everyone), the rewards of authenticity are numerous. When you are authentic, people can trust you. That is because you are predictable! People know what your reaction will be in any given situation. That is because you live your beliefs at all times.

Authenticity also makes your life a lot easier because you aren’t saying one thing and doing another. For instance, you aren’t talking about how important it is to be kind to other people, while at the same time engaging in mean-spirited gossip. That is an ethically uncomfortable place to be in.

Most importantly, when we are authentic, we are honest with ourselves and other people. For instance, I can honestly say that forgiveness doesn’t come easily to me. But I don’t pretend that it does. I know that forgiveness is an area of weakness for me, and I don’t pretend that I have overcome that failing in my character. By being honest with the world and with myself about that flaw, I can confront it head on.

This week, consider whether you are living authentically. If you are trying to follow the Christian path, do your words and deeds reflect that choice? Can others count on you to be consistently kind, generous and welcoming? Living an authentic life as a Christian means matching your actions with your beliefs.   That is not easy to do, and no one does it perfectly. But a life of authenticity is what we all should be aspiring to achieve.

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