“Let love be genuine.” True, gospel-saturated community is authentic. The original word translated genuine means love that is free of “pretending, simulating, or acting.” In other words, the community is not surface-only or fake. It’s not filled with easy answers that justify the spiritual prowess of those involved. In essence, a sign hangs above the doorway that reads: No Masks Allowed.
The regular confession of sin, struggles, fears, and failures is common in gospel-centered community—which only makes sense, because an essential foundation for this community is the reality that all have fallen woefully short of the glory of God, and that each of us continues to battle our selfish natures daily. The only reason the community exists, in fact, is because Christ has called it into existence, not because any of us earned the right to be in community through our moral strength, family connections, reputation, talent, or anything else.
The word church (ekklesia in the original language) literally means “the called out ones.” The word is plural. Believers, therefore, are placed in community with others for one reason: because God has called them out of their former ways of life. Everyone in the community is deeply sinful. Everyone is called by the same God. And everyone has been mercifully placed in community together.
So why pretend we’re more than we are if everything is built on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own? Why the need to be fake? The gospel frees us to be authentic, to admit that our struggles and strengths have not been fully sanctified, and to allow others to apply the grace of God to areas of our lives that desperately need it.
When community is honest and authentic, people begin to experience (and lead others to experience) freedom from wearing a mask because Jesus sets people free from the need to be hypocrites. He liberates religious overachievers controlled and dominated by a religious system they can never beat. He emancipates those shackled to their secrets by bringing light to the darkness. He tears off the masks of the seemingly perfect and allows them to walk in the open. That’s the nature of authenticity in Jesus-centered community—people constantly emerging from the shadows and finding the sufficiency of grace.
Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are posting questions each month for church leaders to discuss with their teams. The content and questions are based on our book Creature of the Word. You can get the book here and access the monthly audit here.