“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” -Ephesians 5:22
“Fake” is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot these days. As in, “She’s so fake,” or “It felt so fake.” There’s something about the idea of putting on an act that deeply bothers us. Conversely, being “real” or genuine is often regarded as the greatest good anyone could achieve. As if it would be ok to murder, or rape, or steal, as long as that is an expression of one’s true nature. While most would not take such an extreme view, I find this general line of thinking uncomfortably common even within the church.
It makes me uncomfortable because the Bible does not teach us to be as authentic as possible. Jesus never said to be true to yourself. In fact, he said to deny yourself. Following Christ requires not only repentance, a polar reversal of the will, but an enduring process of personality change that takes the rest of our lives. This means that the longer you walk with Christ, the less you are like yourself . . . or, at least, the self you were before.
“But wait!” you may say. “Didn’t Jesus condemn people for being hypocrites?” Yes, he did. But let’s not forget what a hypocrite is. It’s someone who says one thing but does another. The Pharisees, whom Christ called hypocrites, did not practice the very law they taught. Their problem wasn’t that they were doing things they didn’t believe in. Their actions were proof that they didn’t believe what they claimed to believe.
The truth is, if we try to just “be ourselves,” we will continue doing the same sins we are accustomed to doing. But if instead we try to behave like Christ, we will find that our very nature begins to change. And as we change, we will find that we are more like ourselves than we ever were before because we become what we were created to be. Now there’s nothing fake about that, is there?