By now the Bigfoot story is no longer big news. It was all a big hoax.

What puzzles me is how the claim of two North Georgia men finding a dead Bigfoot in the mountains ever became big news. USA Today carried the story on the front page of their online edition. It had to have been a slow news day. If two guys claim to find a baby Loch Ness Monster washed up on the shores of Lake Loch Ness in Scotland next week, will that also make the news?

There’s been a lot of talk in my community about a pyramid scam that duped several people in our county. A lot of money left our county over this scam. It could happen to anyone.

Ironically, that very week I had some friends in Alabama, whom I respect greatly and who are very wise investors, ask me to participate in an Internet “Webinar.” The presentation told me how I needed to get in on the ground level of a company’s growing success. Part of my responsibility was to get a few other people involved in the company. The more I listened, the more it sounded like a pyramid plan.

Why was I skeptical? Because I been burned before. I have been on the losing end on other occasions when the product looked good, but when I bought it and began to use it, I discovered that it was falsely presented.

Because many people have their own self-interests in mind, it’s easy to grow skeptical of those who promote themselves or their products. We are always wondering, “Where’s the catch?” You know the adage, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

I am aware that people bring this same level of skepticism to the church. Many unchurched people know those who have paraded themselves as ideal Christians. They do all the things that “Christian” people do: go to church, have a Bible in the car, give their money to charity, use Christian language and volunteer in the community. However, they also know that these people are very different behind their up-front personas. Some people base their entire concept of the church on these people who turn out to be phoneys.

The distinguishing mark of Christians should be our love. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

If Christians don’t love, then people know we are phoneys. We might as well be selling frozen Bigfoots and pyramid schemes.

It’s important to say that not every person who attends a church is supposed to have his/her act together. A church is a hospital for sinners. It’s a place where we go to recover from the addiction to sin. Like any other recovering addict, we are always in recovery from sin.

However, once we profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, people watch Christians to determine if we are authentic. People don’t expect Christians to be perfect, just authentic. If we are authentic, we admit mistakes when we make them. Serving others instead of being served should be at the top rather than the bottom of our list. We don’t have to put on airs. There should be a sincerity about us that comes through in our speech, attitude and body language. We should say what we mean and mean what we say. We don’t just talk the Christian language; it should be our actions that do most of the talking. These are some of the measures of authenticity.

All this is made possible because of the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. This, of course, is what most non-Christians are most skeptical about when it comes to the Christian faith–that Jesus rose from the dead and left his followers with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

People think Christians are fools to believe this, that we have bought into the biggest hoax of history. Of course, the Resurrection is either the biggest hoax of all history or the greatest miracle. It cannot be anything else.

All of Jesus’ disciples eventually died a martyr’s death because the resurrection of Jesus changed their lives. They had once cowered in fear of being killed themselves as Jesus was crucified on the cross. Following his resurrection, these men were empowered because they saw that the power of God extended beyond the grave. It was real. There was nothing phoney about it. It took away their fear. After that, not even the threat of death could keep them from living out authentic Christlike lives.

While there will always be those who are creating hoaxes, while there will always be skeptics, while there will always be those who ridicule us for our faith, while there will be those who claim to have the faith but who don’t have an authentic walk, it’s important to remember that Jesus’ words will forever be true: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga.

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