Falstaff, Authenticity and Generation A-Z

Some thoughts on Elgar, Shakespeare and contemporary culture...

Huw Williams | 22:50, Saturday 07 July, 2012 | Turin, Italy

FalstaffAs I type this I am listening yet again to Elgar’s masterful Falstaff. At the moment I’m pretty hooked on this wonderful depiction of one of Shakespeare’s most brilliantly colourful characters. I’m reminded of how some of the funniest moments I’ve spent in the theatre have been watching Falstaff and his cronies in their famous escapades. Part of the charm of this particular rogue is his total lack of authenticity. His words and his actions simply never match up. Caricature he may be, but we know enough people like him to relate to the frustration of trying to deal with him. It makes for brilliant comedy, but in real life (as finally it proves to be on the stage for poor Falstaff) it can be deadly.

I’m no expert on sociology but from what I understand of Generation X and Y is that one of their distinctives is drawn from their attitude to authenticity, and especially to authentic relationships. The former remain cynical of ever finding (or even the existence of) authentic, loving relationships, while the latter remain hopeful of finding them and value them extremely highly.

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar…

Many contemporary missiologists and evangelists tell us that in looking to reach contemporary culture with the good news of the Jesus, it is no longer adequate to present a message of propositional truth divorced from an authentic display of what the message means in action. For Gen X & Y to listen, we are told, our words must be backed up with authentic lives. Without such we will be treated with the same scepticism as the advertiser, the newsman or the politician.

Skipping over the inherent assumption there that there was a time when it was acceptable to present the gospel as a set of abstract propositions, it seems to me that this was always the case. One of the common rebukes in the Bible to those claiming to know God, was the fact that they had learned to synthesize true devotion to God. From Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice in Genesis 4 to Joel’s desperate plea to the people of God to tear their hearts and not their garments, it seems as though humanity, post Genesis 3 quickly became experts in replacing wholehearted love with orthodoxy and behaviourism.

As I preached 1 John 4 last Sunday, this truth hit home again:-

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar…

Like all the New Testament writers John simply assumes that genuine claims to worship, knowledge and relationship with God simply will be matched with lives of authentic transformation, specifically lives which are distinguished by godly love. For all the New Testament writers, it really is that simple.

When we regain this challenging truth, perhaps we will be better placed to reach contemporary culture. There’s nothing new here, the Bible has been saying it all along. But it is radical. And as our culture simply grows in its hunger for authentic, loving relationships, what does Jesus have to say to his people?

…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (Matt 4:35)

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