I remember attending a counselling course run by the Government some 35 years ago. The course leaders said that the most profound question we can ever ask is “Who am I?”
Subsequently the course spent a large proportion of its time encouraging participants to explore their identity. Twenty-five years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a youth ministry conference in Toronto, and there I majored on the theme of identity. I said then that this would be the increasing theme for the Church in contemporary society. This is born out especially today. If you don’t think this is true, consider a few facts.
Firstly, Facebook recently allowed us to redefine ourselves using 56 gender identities. This may not mean much to you, but to some this a landmark move towards gender identity fluidity. Forget male or female (old fashioned ‘binary’ positions). Welcome to the world of the gender identity continuum.
Secondly, faculties from academia have for some time known that adolescence is a time of identity formation versus role confusion (see Erikson, for example). Developmental psychologists assert that unless adolescents work through the issues surrounding identity formation, then they will not flourish as individuals and will be confused about their roles and purpose in adult life. As an aside, Besly’s research into postmodernity may even suggest that our contemporary western culture could be accused of producing increased adolescent behavior in adults.
Finally, more friends I know who are not Christians are unsure about who they are and what their purpose is. Even in my extended family and in my church family there are many who are not sure about who they are and what they should be doing with their lives. Sadly.
This is where good applied theology comes in.
We can start anywhere is Scripture. For example, the Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). You see, we are made in the image of our heavenly Father. We really do ‘look just like our Dad’. We are the apple of God’s eye. We are his if we have asked to save us and take over the reins of our life. God has made us—he knows who we are. Better than we know ourselves. He wants us to be the person that he has always intended us to be. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We are worth it. Jesus died for us, to free us from sin. Christians are filled with God’s righteousness and the Holy Spirit, making us truly the people God has designed us to be. Our true God-given identity is only to be found when we are in Christ. It is what we are made for—to be a child of the King.
Don’t be misled like I was one time when I thought I would sneak up on my friend who was walking to the shops. I did sneak up on him. But it was not my friend. It was a bad case of mistaken identity.
Know who you are. But more importantly, know who God is. Know him and know his love in your heart and his glorious plans and purposes for your life now; to be fit for your eternal identity. Your heavenly identity—for ever more.
This is an extract from our growing factsheet series, available from the Moorlands College exhibition stand at various events and conferences across the UK.