Every person seeks identity, meaning and purpose. Identity is defined in the dictionary as: the characteristics determining who or what a person or thing is. Identity shapes our perspective on how we see the world around us. Identity shapes the way we feel and how we interact with the world around us; it determines the place we will take within our communities and ultimately shapes our values and beliefs.
Our identity is shaped by our past experience and affects our present experience; it is can be a part of our upbringing and affects the families that we form. It is influenced by and creates the culture we live in.
We tend to find our identity in family, citizenship, careers, finances, fame, accomplishments and hobbies. Recent articles reveal that the suicide rate in America has risen roughly 25 percent in the past 20 years. With 15- to 34-year-olds it is the second leading cause of death. This rise has been across the board, affecting all age, gender, race and ethnicity groups. Something is seriously wrong within the culture we have created.
The third chapter of Genesis describes a loss. Christianity calls it the fall. In essence, we chose to define our identity apart from our Creator and to find it merely within ourselves. The Bible teaches that evil entered into the world through this decision.
In our rebellion, we succumbed to the temptation to determine good and evil not in agreement with God, but through our own limited understanding. As we estranged ourselves from the author of life, His warning, “You shall surely die,” became our reality.
Jesus has come that we might be restored in our relationship and that our identity might not be sought within the realm of the material and temporal, but secured in the eternal. James 1:9 says, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” James works both ends of the spectrum and tells us that if we are poor and struggling (more than merely financially) that we are not to allow that to define us. Our true identity is in Christ.
On the other hand, if we see ourselves as rich (again not only from a financial perspective), we should be humble and know our identity is far greater than our wealth and accomplishments.
Jesus stated in Luke 12:15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus gives dignity to the poor by saying that you are not defined by your poverty and gives dignity to the rich by saying you are not merely your possessions. Through the cross and the forgiveness offered freely there, Jesus invites us to find our identity in Him and within the love relationship that has existed for all eternity past within the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit.
It is an invitation into the supernatural and away from an identity in the temporal, which will ultimately fail us. This is why James 1 reminds us that life is like a flower of the grass. It is beautiful, but short and death, a reality.
Galatians 3:27-29 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The unity that we deeply crave and our hearts’ desire to see the dividing walls come down, happen when we stop seeking our own glory in our independence, but recognize the unity that comes from a single identity in Christ, our Creator. Second Corinthians 17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
What defines you? Who are you? Better yet, whose are you?
Tri Robinson is a pastor at The Rock Church.