How can others who cannot peek inside your heart, glance inside your mind or scan your soul know for sure that you are a follower of Jesus? What is the primary evidence of your credibility and authenticity? According to John 13:35, your Christian identity is best revealed in the way you love others: “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”
Elijah McCoy was a master mechanic and engineer who was born in 1843 to former slaves who had escaped from Kentucky to Ontario via the Underground Railroad. His parents sent him to study in Scotland, where he earned a degree in engineering.
Later in his career, working in partnership with the Michigan Central Railroad, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that automatically dripped oil. He received a United States patent in 1872, and installation of his invention on locomotives began shortly thereafter. His design greatly increased engine efficiency, and soon every company wanted one of the “McCoy Cups.” So many inferior copies were made that train engineers began to demand “the real McCoy,” not an imitation.
Authentic Christian living tends to be a more powerful and persuasive influence to pre-Christians than sermons, songs or religious programs. Pre-believers are more interested in the genuineness of your personal faith than they are your doctrinal purity or your denominational loyalty.
For the growing Christian, faith is not a game wherein we pretend to be something we are not. Growing Christians do not try to act hyper-holy or super-religious because deep down we know that we are merely sinners saved by grace.
Rather than striving to be religious, strive to be real. Believe it or not, those who surround you already know you are not perfect. The real question is, “Do others see the evidence of God’s grace at work in my life in spite of my imperfections?”
The core of your character and the genuineness of your faith are revealed in the crucible of daily living. Let others see who you are under pressure. Let them witness the way you wrestle with moral and ethical decisions. Let them see the ways that you are learning to apply and practice the teachings of Jesus in your unique circumstances.
And especially let them see the way that the love of Christ shapes your attitude, reaction and disposition toward others, for according to John 13:35, this may be the real litmus test of authentic faith.
Speaking of the power of authentic Christian witness, Scottish minister William Barclay writes: “More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all of the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all of the doubts in the world.”
No matter where you are on the spectrum of Christian growth, be authentic, be genuine, be real.
Barry Howard serves as senior minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.