A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
It was grandson Joey’s birthday and just the three of us, Grandpa, Joey, and I, were going to celebrate in a restaurant of Joey’s choice. No tiresome grown-ups or noisy cousins were invited, just us three.
“So, Joey, where do you want to eat?” Grandpa asked.
“I like Mexican food,” he answered.
“Great,” Grandpa said. “There’s a really good Mexican restaurant down on Augusta Road that Grammie and I like. That O.K.?”
“No,” Joey said earnestly. “I like authentic Mexican food. The Mexican restaurant down at Five Forks has authentic Mexican food.”
“Authentic Mexican food, here we come!” Grandpa chanted.
As we munched on warn tortilla chips and salsa, we checked the menu. “I’ll have the pollo fundido. It’s my favorite Mexican food,” I said.
Walt ordered the fajita. “Joey, what are you having?”
“Fried chicken and french fries,” he said reverently.
Huh? Fried chicken and french fries? Authentic Mexican?
Well, we had a good time in Joey’s authentic Mexican restaurant. His fried chicken was as delicious as he expected it to be, and you are likely smiling at the unimportance of that long-ago meal.
But I find myself thinking about how deeply we human beings need authenticity in the really important relationships of life: our family and business dealings, our friendships and civic leaders, but especially in our spiritual leaders. “Authentic” means “genuine, valid, reliable, trustworthy, authoritative.” Those are not the whims of a birthday child. They are foundational to our human relationships.
Perhaps that yearning for authenticity was at the heart of Mahatma Gandhi’s complaint against Christians. He was deeply impressed by the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus and the Bible. But when he tried to go to a Christian church service, he was denied entrance. He was neither “white nor a high-caste Hindu.”
“If it weren’t for Christians,” Mahatma Gandhi said with great sadness, “I’d be a Christian.”
He expected authenticity in the followers of Christ. He yearned to see in them the change the Gospel promises to make in a life. But when he compared what Jesus taught with the way Christians treated him, he gave up. He evidently saw no authentic Christians in his own home town. Yet Jesus had told us, so plainly, how Christians could show non-believers the proof of what we believed:
“Now I am giving you a new commandment:
Love each other. Just as I have loved you,
you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world
that you are My disciples.”
An authentic Christian loves other people like Jesus loves us. But His deep love for us was very costly: He died to give eternal life to people who hated Him. That’s authentic love. Authentic, sacrificial love is the only kind of love that will show the world how much God loves them. And nothing less will heal the terrible animosity and division that faces our dear country.