We tattoo ourselves with Greek phrases, we smatter our Facebook profiles with pictures of us and kids from third-world countries, we swear by organic, fair trade ingredients. We leave churches because the music isn’t authentic enough, beautiful enough, or fulfilling enough. We thrive off of Hillsong’s worship music. We sit in coffee shops with lattes, a Moleskine notebook and an Ethiopian beanie, journaling about our latest devo session. We sport beards, glasses, and leather shoes, waiting for God to reveal our radical calling to an overseas mission field, an urban church plant, or a poverty-stricken city. We’re trendy, radical, and living authentic lives for Christ.
But at what cost? In the midst of trying to live authentically Christian lives, we’ve become consumed with the image of authenticity. If drinking fair trade coffee, serving overseas, and wearing thrift store clothing is serving our ability to glorify and enjoy God forever, then I see no problem with shelling out a few more dollars for organic produce. But if, as I suspect, we’ve fallen for authenticity because we wouldn’t feel Christian without it, then I believe we’ve forsaken the Gospel for something dangerously attractive. Rather than loving Christ, we’re more interested in the idea of loving Christ. While trying to live authentic lives, we’ve become entirely inauthentic.
To note, I do not believe that planting urban churches, wearing TOMS, or journal-writing are inherently bad. When properly aimed, I believe such things are wonderful pursuits. But if the ‘coolness’ was stripped away, if the plaid shirts, French press coffee and Instagram photos were nonexistent, would Christ be enough?
Paul writes in his second epistle to the Corinthians, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (NIV 9:7-9). Have we wrapped ourselves so completely in the idolatrous image of ‘cool’ Christianity that we forget the sufficient grace of true Christianity? If stripped of our simply-living, bare-footing, leaf-loving habits, will Christ sustain us as He sustained Paul?
C.S. Lewis summarizes this phenomenon well: “The state of mind which desperate desire working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in the Christian sense. It is a feat of psychological gymnastics.” Are we stylishly performing for one another, or are we faithfully abiding in the grace of God?