Have you ever had that awkward moment when you’re meeting someone new? Exchanging names is easy, but then they ask the question: “So, tell me about yourself?” I’ve often been on the receiving end and have had no idea what to say. Do I talk about my age, profession, number of children? Do I include my hobbies and favourite colour? What makes up ‘me’? What makes me ‘me’?
Where do you get your sense of identity from? A lot of things go into making up who we are. There are the inherent things, such as personality, taste, giftedness. There’s the character that has developed over the course of growing up. There’s experience, which shapes the way our values and ideals emerge. And finally, there’s what’s called ‘acquired identifications.’ These are the values and people with which/whom we identify with such consistency that they contribute to our identity. I identify as a Geelong Cats supporter, but really only because my Dad does – his preferences, stamped across my childhood, ended up shaping mine.
We all have a choice in how we identify ourselves. We can choose any or all of the things mentioned above, or we can make a deliberate choice to be something, to seek after a way of being. This is where Jesus comes in.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ first, and longest, teaching session in Matthew. In it, he makes a point of mapping out what the Kingdom of God looks like. In the kingdom, the poor, the humble, the peacemakers are exalted (Matthew 5:3-10). In the kingdom, righteousness is deep and pure, coming from the heart and creating perfection (Matthew 5:17-48). In the kingdom, worship of and dependence on God takes priority of place when we pray (Matthew 6:7-13). In the Kingdom of God, who we are as disciples of Christ takes precedence over anything else in our identity.
Jesus took on this kingdom-focussed identity. Philippians 2:6-8 spells it out: he was in very nature God, but he humbled himself, “made himself nothing.” He took on humanity, identified with us in our brokenness and our need for redemption, and became the Passover Lamb, obedient to death. And because of what he did on the cross, we now have his righteousness.
All of a sudden, identity takes on a whole new meaning. God created us (Psalm 139:13-14), he loves us (John 3:16), he redeemed us, and he is shaping us day by day into his likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). This comes connected to two things. First, there is freedom. I no longer have to identify as the girl who grew up mired in mistakes and sin. I have been freed from my sins of the past and my enslavement to sin in the future. But second, it comes with an obligation. That obligation is a response. Not just to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, but to commit to a new identity as a disciple of Christ. An identity that comes with ever-increasing transformation into the image of Christ, so that we can say with Paul “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
I think this choice might just be a daily one. Every day, we need to choose to put on this new identity, to shed our old identity and instead become a disciple of Christ, one who seeks first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). The next time someone asks you, “tell me about yourself,” perhaps the first thing you might think of to say will be, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.” PRAY for this to be a day to day reality.
SONG: Who Am I? by Casting Crowns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C53GgUJ6y-Y