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Christian Living: Balancing Propriety & Authenticity ( A Discourse)

The Bible has always placed balance between propriety and authenticity.  In the christian life, they must go together. The Christian must be careful to pursue both coincidentally (all at the same time). Growing within a culture of traditionalism and legalism disrupts balance. The mind may even be unaware of that problem and can labour through much confusion, of struggling between what is proper, what is right, what is true, and what is important. It is a great blessing to be free from that kind of environment. To be exposed or to grow in it will need a continuing process of renewal; unlearning things and replacing them with new and proper learning.

Current Trends
It can be observed that Christians are one of these:

Proper but not Authentic- They've mastered the ins and outs of being right in front of people. They know what should be seen and they know how to keep flaws hidden. Their christianity is lived in front of people. To them, being perceived as mature and godly is most important. "See me and approve."

Authentic but not Proper- They are committed to being true to themselves. They strongly believe that as God has loved and accepted them for who they are so should man. They expect man to accept them "in spite of". To them, self-acceptance is valued and they impose that on others. Else, they don't care what you think. "Take me as I am, or just don't bother me."

Not Proper and Not Authentic - They have their own standards for what is proper. They gauge propriety not by biblical standards, rather by what they find convenient to follow. They let people see true aspects of their character which they only want to reveal so as to get sympathy or favor and help.

Highly Proper, Struggling to be Authentic- They are spiritually disciplined and are committed to righteousness. But they still need to feel secure in showing their true self to people. They may have had bad experiences with other Christians before. Hence, they find it hard to trust people and grant them access into their private lives.

Highly Authentic, Struggling to be Proper- They are truly comfortable in their own skin, at times, maybe too comfortable. Aware of their lack and shortcomings, they don't hide them but they never make an excuse either. They are tenderhearted, willing to grow, but still need to learn discernment in the limitations on what they allow people to see. They need more knowledge on Biblical principles for right living.

 Balanced (proper and authentic) - This type does not always mean one is highly proper and highly authentic, although by God's grace that is very much possible. This means that the level of growth in both areas is the same. They develop at the same pace. In being proper, they are careful not to be hypocritical. In being authentic, they are careful not to cause people to stumble.

Question: Which type of Christian am I right now?

The Consequence of Authenticity
Practicing authenticity also becomes more difficult when you are around people who aren't ready for "authentic". They are accepting of what is proper and they expect that of people. Intentionally or unrealizingly, they disapprove people who show flaws publicly. They lose respect because some people must be "held to a higher standard". But what is the standard? and what is the measure of expectation? What qualifies you for "higher expectation" and what saves you from being expected to live in the highest regard? When Christians think like these, they become guilty of the following:
  • double standards
  • unreasonable standards
  • unforgiveness
  • impatience
  • lack of love
Question: Do I impose double standards on others?

Christian Principles
1. We are commanded to be proper.
The Bible says that Everything should be decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:4. We are to conduct our lives on account of our heavenly calling. Philippians 1:27-30. Being proper is needed as testimony of our position in Christ. Matthew 5:14-16

2. We are commanded to be authentic. 1 Peter 3:3,4
The Bible shares that: Ananias & Sapphira were slain for not being authentic (Acts 5); We are to be honest about our faults in order to have healing (James 5:16); Even Jesus did not hide from us his desire to be spared from the Cross (Matthew 26:39); God values authenticity more (1 Samuel 16:7); God uses our authenticity for His purposes. 2 Cor. 12:9,10.

3. We should aim to be both proper and authentic.
Paul saw the importance of having integrity and living genuinely before men. 2 Cor. 1:12. 1 Cor 10:32

4. We should be careful not to needlessly offend others. Romans 14:13-23
Whether it's about christian liberty or authenticity, we ought to be careful not to offend others with our words and actions.

5. We should be ready to correct and rebuke others. James 5:19,20
In seeing authenticity among brothers in Christ, we should be ready to point out mistakes,errors, and sins.

6. We should be ready to bear the burdens of others, to support, and to assist. Gal 6:1,2
In seeing people's weaknesses and sins, we should not reject them, rather, we should seek to help them, especially if there is sincere desire to make right and change.

My Experience
True friends I consider are those I can speak truth with and get an honest discussion from. I never mind being corrected and I never mind being called out for something that I've done wrong. But, I have yet to accumulate true friends. Rare were the times when I had learning conversations with someone.

There are those I was comfortable enough to be authentic with and I could sense their attitude towards me changed. I just wonder what they think of themselves, they must feel that they are always on track to hold negative sentiments against people who fail and err.

There are those who've seen me "act human" and felt a let-down. I saw myself lose respect points in their sight. I just wonder how they've gotten this standard and why they are comfortable exacting that on others when they know they themselves can't always measure up.

Then there are those rare people who've seen me in my best and worst and stuck around long enough to see and hear me apologize and make amends, make positive changes. These are people I treasure. These are people I respect, and these are people I choose to give time to.

Am I done with the old life? Not 100%. but His grace is sufficient. There is never an excuse because there is empowering grace accessible to anyone at anytime.


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