Debunking the term: “Real”

I’ve heard lots of people talk about a need to get ‘real’ so I thought this would be a good choice for my first edition of ‘debunking the term’

Where have I heard ‘Real’

Lots of Christians talk about getting ‘real’ – they talk about certain churches being ‘real’ and certain preachers being ‘real’ – Specifically, churches that are more contemporary in their style are usually called ‘real’ – does that mean that traditional churches are fake? Certainly they can be, but I don’t think they have to be as a rule – I’ve been to some contemporary services where people were pretty fake.

Some will also use the term ‘real’ – when they’re talking about people; saying about a preacher ‘he’s just so real!’ or of their church ‘the people there are real.’

The problem is people don’t really mean ‘real.’

What I think people mean by ‘Real’

Most often when someone says ‘real’ they actually mean ‘understandable’ or ‘accessible to me.’ That’s why to some, real is rap music whereas to others its country; it’s just that with which they most identify. Some people say ‘real’ and what they mean is that they can simply understand it. That’s why when a pastor gets up and starts using lots of theological terms and obscure scripture references – some people might not think of him as ‘real’ – when if fact he is no less ‘real’ than the preacher that only refers to the most basic scriptures and tells funny stories about the crazy things he did when he was in college. Neither person is faking it; they’re both telling the truth.

The Problem with being “Real”

By calling something ‘real.’ You’re inferring that the alternatives are less than real, but this isn’t the only unintended implication of this phrase. I’ve been in situations where I’ve heard Christians say ‘we just want to get real’ or ‘we need to be real with each other.’ In this instance it means they want ‘no holds barred’ honesty, which is way overrated. Think about it:

  • Maybe you are ok with airing out the skeletons in your closet, but that doesn’t mean that its good, necessary or healthy for everyone else to do the same. While we are told to confess our sins to one another – we’re not told to confess our every sin to the whole community. Transparency is good – sharing each others burdens is great – presenting stumbling blocks for others by sharing your innermost secrets with people not mature enough to handle them… not so much
  • Often when a larger (20+) community gets into a pattern of sharing its most intimate secrets with everyone people begin to one-up each other with tragedies and sins – each week you’ll have people who want to sound more and more pitiful.
  • Finally people use this brand of radical honesty as an excuse to be rude, negative or hurtful. I’ve seen it myself and I think its a flagrant misuse of scripture to act as if rudeness is excused by scripture simply because ‘its the truth.’ Nor do I see cynicism in the person of Jesus. If being a consistently negative person is ‘real’ then I don’t believe it’s Christ-like to be ‘real’ by that definition. Bear in mind, “kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24

Here’s what is Real:

It is possible to live a life focused on the path that God has laid out for us. I’ve known many people who live this life – I aspire to be one of them. Would Christ ask us to do something impossible when he said “Be Holy as I am Holy?” (1 Peter 1:16) Impossible for us, certainly, but aren’t we also told that we can do all things through Christ? (Philippians 4:13) What force is more powerful: our sinful nature or God’s ability to sanctify?  – To say ‘all have sinned’ is only half the reality – the other half? Jesus died to free us from sin.  The scripture states ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) it doesn’t say “All will continue to sin….” – its past tense. Freedom from sin – that’s real.

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Posted on February 2, 2011 in Debunking the Term, Everything Else

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About the Author

William H. Adams does creative work for a church. He enjoys sandwiches, jet skis, legos, ultimate frisbee, and living life to the fullest. Will is most passionate about using creative media to tell the story of what God is doing in the lives of those who love Christ. He believes the purpose of his life to glorify God and encourage others.

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