Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
It seems that the idea of an authentic relationship is becoming more and more rare in today’s world. We seem to live in a very superficial society, just check out the tabloid magazines at the supermarket check-out line. And this affects us having authentic relationships with Christ and with one another.
This reflection is about what it means to have an authentic relationship. Being at peace is dependent, at least in some part, to the relationships we establish, with others and most especially with Christ. Relationships that are inauthentic contribute to chaos and internal conflict. Relationships that are authentic contribute to being at peace, with oneself and with others.
The word “authentic” means “genuine”, “original,” and “true.” The first example of “authentic” that comes to mind is uniform jerseys of sports teams. I’m a big sports fan, as you all know by now. I bought recently an “authentic” jersey of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Authentic” means it is the exact replica jersey of what is worn by the hockey players. I also have a T-shirt that says “Tampa Bay Lightning” on the front, and have the number and name of a player on the back. This is a Tampa Bay Lightning product, but it is not an “authentic” jersey. It is nice, even comfortable to wear, but it is not authentic.
The word “relationship” means how we exist in comparison with someone else. A “close” relationship means that we share lots of things with someone. An “honest” relationship means that we are not afraid to tell the truth to someone. A “superficial” relationship means that there might be a surface level or appearance of closeness but beneath the “surface” or outward appearance, there is no closeness or honesty.
Now, having an “authentic” jersey doesn’t make me more or less of a fan, it’s honestly not that important. Having an “authentic relationship” on the other hand is very important. Authenticity is vital to an honest and deep relationship. And that goes for a relationship with Christ, or with another person. In an authentic relationship, there are things like respect, communication, a genuine desire, trust, love, and vulnerability.
In Genesis 2, we see the picture painted of Adam and Eve walking with the Lord in the cool mist of the Garden of Eden. This relationship was authentic. Adam and Eve loved each other, they loved the Lord, there was no envy or jealousy, or pretense, or anything else that was negative. It was an authentic and pure relationship. Then Adam and Eve went away from the Lord, they committed a sin, and they severed themselves from the authentic relationship with the Lord. Where they had been naked and unashamed, they were now ashamed and covered themselves. Where they had been open and honest, they now lied and were deceitful.
Christ showed us the way to an authentic relationship—love, sacrifice, vulnerability. This is how He made His relationship with us. This is how He showed us to make our relationships with Him and with one another. Somewhere deep down in each of us, and I truly believe this, is a desire for an authentic relationship with Christ and with one another. The problem is that there are layers of sin, doubt, anger, etc. that cover over this place of authenticity. And there is a fear of removing the layers, fear of what we’d find beneath them. Yet, if we all made the collective decision to remove the things that cover up authenticity, we’d again capture the Paradise enjoyed by Adam and Eve with each other and with the Lord. So, this is one of life’s challenges, to build authentic relationships.
Authentic relationships help us to be at peace. We don’t have enough authenticity—in close relationships like marriage and with children, in relationships with close friends, and in relationships with co-workers that we are with every day. I encourage you to examine your relationships with others and with the Lord and reflect on whether they are authentic or inauthentic, the barriers that keep relationships from being authentic, and how to bring more authenticity to them.
Lord, thank You for the gifts You have so richly poured out upon me. Thank You for the people that I know, (list names of your family and friends). Help us to work together toward more authentic relationships, with one another, and most especially with You. Open my mind and my heart to desire more genuineness and honesty in my relationships. Give me courage as I look within myself. And give me courage to explore with my family and friends how to deepen bonds of love and friendship. Amen.
Reflect on the word “Authentic” and whether that is a word that you’d apply towards your relationships with Christ and with others. Why is that, or isn’t that a good word to describe your relationships?
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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