In the 1990’s America Online mailed me a disk that awarded 30 free hours of connectivity to the world wide web. I encountered online personality tests and surveys for the first time as well as the concept of “identity-seeking” — and this concept captured my imagination. The term, identity, comes up in social discourse about gender identity, and in Christian circles about our identity in Christ Implicitly or explicitly, identity-seeking or identity-forming takes up a large fraction of what we humans do with our lives.
A quick review of the beginning of human history will reveal a progression of events: An act of creation occurs. An entire world and life is given as a gift and a blessing. A model of love in a family unit is established. The very first offspring comes up with a different model, as he kills his brother.
Human tradition continues to drive us to *define* ourselves and our world; each in our own way to grasp at authorship and authority. All of what we see played out in the struggles of our society is the result of the past and continued attempts to pick up this pen and rewrite ourselves in at we might imagine is our own image. In our minds we have driven down the streets of self-actualization, self-determination, self-esteem, and other glorifications of the self. This is the logical outcome when man directs his own life. We seek, in turn, to create our own world, our own morality (or “tolerance”) to impose, and our own relationship ethic.
Or, alternatively, God blesses us and imposes his external system on us; and we obey and worship.
Once one of these systems is chosen, a process is set in motion. Romans 1 elucidates the progression, starting with, “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (v.21 ESV).” and culminating with the characteristics of the lost society, ” . . . foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless (v.31)” It’s the classic fallacy: “If I ruled the world, it would be a Utopia.” The truth: If any of us ruled the world, it would be tyranny, injustice, and ruin; just our individual brand of it. An important aside here, do not mistake the outcomes (the observable behaviors and traits of the human-defined society) for the cause of the trouble (refusing to honor God as creator and give thanks).
Here is the problem for our race. We desperately want to be loved and accepted. Moreover, we want to be loved for who we are, not for what we might do to earn it . . . . and deep down we know that we are unlovable. We employ all kinds of strategies to avoid this disturbing truth, and even make all kinds of changes to our “identity” just to create a diorama where we can dream that we are not so horrible; that we could be loved despite the fact that we fall so short on so many levels. We imagine we can do this because *we* are the authors and we define success, and beauty, and love . . . . but that sad road is a dead-end street . . . . Until we hear that a bush burns on the side of the road . . . . And we turn aside to see this thing . . . . And we find out that we are loved in spite of what we have become, and that priceless stamp of our creators image on our persons cannot be erased because it is sealed with his own blood. He offers to take upon himself all of the justice and well-deserved wrath that we have been wildly successful at earning. Even at our ugliest and most objectionable, we are somehow beautiful to God; one of his more incomprehensible characteristics, that he could love his enemies so much *before* they turn to him. He died for the ungodly, not for the ones who aren’t as bad or the ones who started turning things around. A glance at Romans 5:6-11 will show this powerfully and concisely laid out:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a god person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Seek — stop rewriting — your identity. Try the following start to your day:
“God I acknowledge you as my creator and king. Thank you.”