When my son Neale was five years old, he boarded a plane with my oldest son and my husband. Meanwhile my daughter and I lagged way behind them in boarding ourselves. When I got to my seat with the rest of my family, two flight attendants were laughing as they were chatting with Neale. They saw me and said, “Oh, now we have our answer!” Seeing the puzzled look on my face, a flight attendant said, “We asked your son (Neale) where he got his red hair, and now that we see you we know the answer.” The other flight attendant joined in and said, “But when we asked him where he got his red hair, he looked as if the answer was obvious and said, ‘It just came with my head!’”
This physical feature of Neale’s is often used to identify him in a crowd or when people describe him . Physical features are often used to identify a person: “Look for the tall guy in the red shirt” or “She’s the girl with her hair in braids.” But these features are just a part of the person, not their entirety. If I only used Neale’s red hair to describe him, you wouldn’t know anything about his interests, personality, work, or faith. He would be reduced to being a very truncated version of himself.
We can make this same mistake when it comes to how we live our lives. Our greatest loves are revealed in what we love, how we live, and what we pursue. A person can be seen as one single entity such as a dentist, athlete, teenager, grandmother, etc. While these descriptions aren’t wrong, it’s a sad witness if believers identify themselves more passionately with their jobs or political affiliation over being a child of God, saved through Jesus Christ. As believers, we are new creations through faith in Jesus alone. Such a weighty descriptor should be the most important identity we have, not secondary to the identities the world values.
Scripture says that we are to be in the world not of it. We are to be salt and light to those who observe our lives. We are to show others we are Christians by our love. We are to have joy amid trials, to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. In other words, we are to let the indwelling Holy Spirit empower us. With that power, we are to reflect and glorify God with our lives, not seek to glorify ourselves.
The Holy Spirit also guides us in how to share our hope in Christ with others. As Pastor Mark Vroegop so often says, we are “to build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth.” So, while it isn’t always appropriate to share your faith when meeting someone for the first time, we do want to have our identity in Jesus so central to who we are, that he is seen in us through our actions and interactions with others. From there, relationships can form and grow, and the saving truth of the gospel can be shared.
Living From Identity
I have been guilty of elevating my work and life roles above my Christian identity. I was convicted of this as I studied the catechism and reflected on the first question: “What is the chief end of man”? The answer states, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This caused me to reflect on who my greatest love was, how I was living, and who or what I was pursuing. The Lord humbled me by revealing people and pursuits in my life that were a greater priority to me than he was. I am learning that I regularly need to revisit my priorities to keep the Lord at the center of my life.
How about you? Is your faith in Christ your main source of identity or is just a side feature? Do you put your identity in Jesus further down the list behind your job, family, hobbies, or abilities? Our faith in Christ is the only thing that cannot be taken from us, it’s our source of life, hope, and freedom.
Let us live in such a way that we spur one another on so that he will increase and we will decrease.