What is authenticity? Authenticity is the condition of being genuine. It imbues the quality of being believable, therefore, trustworthy. Authenticity points to purity, accuracy, legitimacy among many qualities defining truthfulness and validity. To be authentic, simply, is to be real, not fake.
In today’s world of artificial intelligence, artificial insemination, artificial selection and artificial or “man-made” products from flowers and Christmas trees to diamonds and pearls, from signature brands to imitation products, the genuine and the “real” thing has become all the more precious. With it, the discerning and “seeing” eye is made even more crucial in decision-making. Sadly, as people question the authenticity of certain objects, so they doubt the credibility of Christians.
Followers of Jesus, therefore, need to be authentic in their walk and talk so people may see in them “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
When I think of authenticity, integrity comes to mind. Integrity comes from the Latin integer, which means entire or whole number.
Stephen Carter points out,
“A person of integrity, like a whole number, is a whole person, a person undivided. Integrity conveys… completeness and the serenity of a person who is confident in the knowledge that he or she is living rightly.”
(Stephen L. Carter, Integrity (New York: Basic Books, 1996)
Chuck Swindoll applies integrity to one who is “solid, authentic, upright.” The authentic Christian has the mark of “unimpeachable integrity.” To be unimpeachable is to be entirely trustworthy.
In the Bible, uprightness (1 Kings 9:4, 1 Chron. 29:17), righteousness (Psalm7:8, 15:2), and truth (Judges 9:16,19) are some of the words associated with integrity. Integrity is also a matter of the heart (Gen. 20:5, 1 Kings 9:4, 1 Chron. 29:17), involving one’s walk (Psalm15:2, 26:1) and talk (Amos 5:10, Ps. 15:2).
Carter proposed three steps to integrity: 1) discerning what is right from what is wrong; 2) acting on this discernment even at personal cost, and, 3) saying openly you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.4 These three elements of judgment, action, and word correspond to the Bible’s heart, walk, and talk.
As a young king, Solomon prayed, “You have shown great loving kindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You…So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:6,9)
Solomon knew his father, David, walked in integrity with God – in truth, righteousness, and uprightness of heart. He recognized it was basically doing good and shunning evil. He, therefore, asked God to give him an understanding heart to “discern between good and evil.” Solomon wrote in Proverbs 11:3, “The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of transgressor shall destroy them.” Integrity, possessed by the upright, is a crucial part of wisdom.
Desire to do the will of God is obedience. “As a Christian, a belief in discernment rests crucially on the belief in God and the duty of obedience to God’s law.”6 Solomon sought discernment in humility to obey God.
Knowing good and evil
In the Bible, we read another story where the knowledge of good and evil was sought. The serpent tempted Eve to seek the knowledge of good and evil. He deceived Eve, saying God lied when He warned Adam that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil would lead to death. The serpent also implied that God did not want man to be like Him, knowing good and evil; that God did not want to share this “power” of discernment, which belongs to Him alone. Essentially, the serpent was convincing the woman to be “like God” – on the same level as God in the context of pride and power. She was to attain this supremacy at the expense of disobeying God’s command. The image of God in man, originally, to be man’s glory as he “reflects” God’s glory, was “marred” because man seeks to be like God, thereby, “replacing” God.
Man was created in God’s image, bearing certain attributes of God. Knowing good and evil is part of God’s image and character. Man’s knowledge of good and evil holds him accountable to follow His Creator, so he will and can live his life in the goodness of God’s image – a life of wholeness and uprightness. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and took it upon themselves, wanting to “be like God” – all knowing, sin entered the world. This sin is pride. The antidote to pride is humility.
Humility is foundational to all other virtues man should choose to seek, to learn, and to acquire in order to live his life on earth as God intended. It sounds paradoxical that man, created in God’s image, with “royal splendour” and dignity, should take pride in his status, yet attempt to remain humble in the very same image. Humility is not self- abasement. It is acknowledging that whatever we have comes from God.
Eve disobeyed God to seek the knowledge of good and evil, to “be like God.” In humble obedience, Solomon asked for discernment to know right from wrong in order to “depend on God” and to walk in truth, righteousness, and uprightness of heart.
According to Carter, the next two steps toward integrity are acting on this discernment of right and wrong at a personal cost and proclaiming your actions. It is walking the talk and talking the walk.