We all have individual characteristics by which we are known. This personal identity defines the individual. The process by which this identity was attained used to be a relatively simple thing. Identity usually reflects place – where we were born, the parents we were born to — and in addition ethnicity, race and religion all play a big part. Our identity was formed automatically without much thought on the individual’s part.
In our increasingly complex world, the basic foundational units that have helped hold the social order in place are changing. This is especially true for families. The social order is being turned upside down – just as God warned would happen. “As for My people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12). As a BBC headline declared this week, “More women candidates than ever will contest US governorships and House seats in November’s mid-term elections.” The “way of our paths” is in upheaval and many see this as a plus.
This dramatic change has an impact on personal identity. Who we are and the characteristics by which people are known is becoming blurred. Whereas identity was mostly acquired or imposed, today we see more personal election in identity. This is seen clearly in the current gender discussions suggesting parents should raise children as “gender neutral”, so the child can choose later with which sex they want to be identified.
From a spiritual perspective this can also have a flow-on impact within the Church. A lot of us older members grew up within a single Church. Today we can elect our Church identity from among the various organizational offerings.
We need to think about the individual characteristics by which we are known. We do have a choice. That choice is made possible by God’s calling and our subsequent conversion. In simple language, “…the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
The individual characteristics by which we are known should be common to us all. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). The personal identity we elect to establish is not one that is derived from this world social order. “… as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another …. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14).
The characteristics that the Holy Spirit creates within us override place, ethnicity, race and group choices. We are to be transformed to God’s identity. Each of us is to be an extension of who He is, projected into this world social order. “Know the Lord, He is God. It is He who makes us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
Is that how others identify you?