This post is transcribed from Emma's wonderful talk on 22/11/14 at St John's College, Durham University for the event 'A Life More Precious'.
The internet can be an incredibly powerful thing. Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to build relationships with the MP girls through Facebook and email, when I’d never met them before. That’s great, but it’s also slightly scary – for all the girls knew, I could have been someone completely different to who I said I was (Catfish, anyone?).
It just goes to show how artificial the internet is, and now that so much our lives are spent online we are starting to reflect that artificiality. We spend hours on Facebook and Instagram, trying to create the image of a life that is worthy of Pinterest and as a result, our lives and our relationships are now more artificial.
Even church can become artificial. Many a time I’ve found myself slipping into a Christian language littered with buzzwords. We are so concerned with fitting in and looking good both in church and out of it that we’re acting and even talking in a different way.
We have a huge preoccupation with how we present ourselves.
If you are a Christian, do you really think the best way to represent God is by fitting in? We cannot expect people to think there is something different about us if we are acting in the same way as everyone else. Ultimately, we cannot ‘give life’ in relationships, if what people are seeing are not our true lives.
We’re living artificial lives when we should be living authentic ones. But why is it important to be authentic in our lives and relationships?
God made you to be unique and individual, but God also made you in his image. That means that if you are just being yourself, then you are automatically showing the image of God to people.
So, how can we live authentically?
1. Be truthful
Have you ever lied to a Christian friend about a mistake or a bad decision you’ve made, because you didn’t want to seem like a bad Christian? Well, not only would your friend be in the wrong for judging you, you are also in the wrong for hiding your mistake. By hiding your mistakes, you’re actually denying the grace that God has freely gifted you. And by lying to your friend, you’re saying that you’re more concerned with offending your friend than you are about offending God.
Galatians 1:10 says ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.’
Who are you trying to please? Your friends or God?
2. Share your weaknesses
A huge part of being a Christian is sharing your life with people. But that means sharing everything. And if we’re going to be authentic, then we have to share the bad things as well as the good things, like our weaknesses or worries or fears. By saying, publicly, ‘I messed up and I made a bad decision’, you can then say ‘but it’s okay, because through the grace of God I have been forgiven’.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says: '…But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'
We should be proud of grace and boast in the fact that we can make mistakes and still be loved.
Not only will that be a great example of God’s love to your non-Christian friends, but it will be a huge encouragement to your Christian ones.
We need to be consistent in our authenticity. Being a Christian does not mean making your life look as holy as possible. In the same way, your value does not come from how holy other people think you are.
John 15:12 says ‘Love each other as I have loved you.’
This is the key to authentic, life-giving relationships. God loves you, for exactly who you are; flaws and bad habits and mistakes and all. It’s quite simply really: in order to have great relationships with other people we need to love them like God loves us – for exactly who they are.