Have you watched any of those crime dramas on TV – the ones with forensic pathologists doing extensive examinations of corpses seeking to determine, “Who is this person?” I find it interesting that whether we’re living or deceased, our identity is so integral to our existence.
Identity is a recurring theme these days, even dominating news reports at times.
Debates abound about whether it’s important to prove one’s identity to participate in an election – voter ID. We hear endless commentaries (or arguments) over something called “gender identity.” Famous individuals make news when they announce their identity as supporters of a particular political party.
But our identity – who we are – doesn’t have to be news-making. Whenever we fill out a survey, they ask numerous questions related to our identity: Are we married, single, divorced, or what? What about race or ethnicity – which one are we? Then there’s that matter of gender again. The difference is that these days, there are usually more than two boxes from which to choose.
When we meet someone for the first time, whether in a business context, a new neighbor or even a fellow passenger on a commercial jet, one question we commonly ask – or answer – is, “What kind of work do you do?” In other words, what’s your vocational or professional identity?
We can find a sense of “identity” in the sports teams we root for, hobbies we pursue, how much education we have and where we received it, the size of our bank account, which subdivision we live in, the people and groups we associate with, and a host of many other things.
Each of these identity determinants has some value, but shouldn’t there be something about us that transcends such things as ethnicity, net worth, job, or even how we spend time behind closed doors?
Reading through the Bible, we see a strange and amazing collection of characters, most of them very flawed, but in terms of identity, they had one reality in common: They saw themselves as inseparably linked to God; He was their single-most reason for being. For instance, we read that “Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God” (Hebrews 11:24-25).
Moses’ successor, Joshua, led the Israelites into the Promised Land, fulfilling the promise the Lord had made when they were freed from bondage in Egypt. But a great danger lurked – the temptation to turn away from the one true God and worship the false gods of the surrounding nations. So, as his days as their leader were nearing an end, Joshua gave the people of Israel this charge: “…then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
As good an example of someone who had absolute clarity about his identity was Paul the apostle. Speaking to a large crowd in the city of Athens, filled with idols to an multiplicity of gods, Paul explained what faith in Jesus Christ meant: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)
Writing to believers in the city of Galatia, he declared, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Writing to Jesus’ followers in another ancient church, Paul underscored their true identity: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In another letter to the same group, the apostle wrote, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Being Christ followers also clarified one’s identity in terms of calling and service, the apostle asserted, “for we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Imagine being chosen as co-workers with the Lord in fulfilling His eternal purposes on earth.
In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (1 Corinthians 5:19-20).
Perhaps the most compelling statement about the true identity of those who follow Jesus is found in Galatians 3:26-28, which declares, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In Christ, traits like ethnicity, social status or gender aren’t taken into account. Our jobs, hobbies, personal possessions and portfolios, even our personal habits, are things we do – but they’re not who we are, our identity, if we have received Him as Savior and Lord. We are “new creations” – the old has passed, the new has come!
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.