The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this word as “who someone is; the name of a person; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others.” This is a word that isn’t very common in our culture. I can’t think of many instances when someone would be able to use this word consistently. But still, it is a beautiful word. This word is the very essence of what makes up a person. Someone’s identity defines what they do, how they respond to a situation, their dreams, aspirations and hopes. Your identity reveals what you truly value. All of it stems from your identity.
This word is extremely important for the church. “Identity” was first introduced to me in the context of Christianity in our Children’s ministry at my church. We spent an entire year talking about identity. We’d ask the kids where their identity was, where it should be, and what has to be done to get there? That time spent studying this single word has had a huge impact on me, since that year my understanding of it has only grown.
I am realizing more and more that most of our issues result from a misplaced identity. I find that often when I am the most miserable is when I have placed my identity somewhere besides in the person and work of Christ. This has been hard with my and Alyssa’s wedding quickly approaching. I have to continue to fight the urge to place my entire being in our marriage. If I am looking to our marriage as my only means of joy, my only means of peace, as my all in all, we will both wind up being miserable. It would place an incredible burden on Alyssa to please me perfectly, and my expectations of a flawless marriage would be shattered on the honeymoon.
This is just a single example of misplaced identity. Women who place their identity in physical beauty often take extreme measures to look perfect. It is a long dark road. When at first we don’t find joy in our misplaced identity, we are only driven further and take measures even more drastic, searching for peace. That guy who never got the approval of his father will do whatever it takes to have everyone’s attention on him. The widow who values human interaction more than anything will cross boundaries to see her grandchildren, harming relationships along the way. The women who value their reputation will gossip about others to look better in front of their friends.
The list is endless. In our sin, we have misplaced our identity in the physical rather than the spiritual.
It continues to blow me away how the apostles of the New Testament speak about their joy even amongst intense persecution. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). The apostles are able to speak so because their identity was placed in Christ.
When our identity is found completely in Christ, our physical circumstance matter very little. We can take the persecution, the discomfort, the illness, the defeat, the rejection. It’s not that it’s easy, but that are worth isn’t defined by the events of yesterday, today, or tomorrow, but our all is found in Christ.
Where Is Your Identity?
Examine your life right now. What conflicts have you experienced in the past twenty-four hours? What reoccurring sin issues are you dealing with? What dreams do you cling to? Where is your identity found? When our identity is in Christ, it should amplify every human relationship we have. It gives us new purpose, new hope, new values.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is your new purpose statement as a follower of Christ. It should change the way we think, the way we act, the way we respond to crummy circumstances. How will your new identity in Christ affect your relationships today?