Summary: Who are you? What is your identity? What does that mean for how you live?
Who Am I?
July 26, 2009 1 Pet 1:1-2
I’d like you to close your eyes for a moment so you can concentrate on this question: way down deep inside you, the place where few if any other people really see, deep in your soul, who are you? What is your identity?
Some of you don’t like that question, because you don’t like what you see. In these kind of quiet moments, just you and God, you are uncomfortable because you see mostly the bad stuff about yourself – some of the filth, some of the lies, some of the lusts, some of the hatred or selfishness – and you are convinced that God sees all that yucky stuff and is just waiting for you to acknowledge it so He can punish you like you deserve. So some people avoid thinking about who they are in the hopes that if we ignore it, it will just go away.
Others don’t like that question because it brings up more pain than bad things we have done. When we look deep inside, just us and God, we see all the ways that we have been hurt, damaged, wounded, and we start to feel that emotional pain, and we are often afraid that if we pay any attention to it, it will quickly overwhelm us. So again, we sometimes try to ignore it and hope it will go away.
Others maybe don’t mind the question so much – maybe because we’ve accepted who we are and are reasonably comfortable with our understanding of our identity. We know there are places of sin, and places of pain, but we’ve found ways of carrying on in spite of those or through those, and so we have a sense of who we are and try to live out of it.
Whatever your reaction to the question, it is an important one to ask, even if it is uncomfortable. Because how we see our identity has an awful lot to do with how we live our lives, and when we understand who we are in the light of the truth of God, it transforms how we see just about everything – including the stuff we see that we don’t like, the stuff we see that hurts, and even the things we accept. Knowing who we are as Children of God is a critical starting point for how we live as children of God.
So for the Sunday’s I’m around and speaking this summer, I want to focus on this question of identity. Who am I? Who are we?? And what does that mean for how we live??? We are going to jump into that question by studying various passages in 1 Peter.
But before introducing you to 1 Peter, and looking just at the first two verses this morning, I’ve chosen this topic of identity because it is one I’ve been thinking about a lot these past couple years, both personally and institutionally.
Personally, I’ve mentioned previously that there were some things about myself that I wasn’t liking much. I didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t like that my waist-line kept growing, my clothes were uncomfortable, and to put it as bluntly as possible – I had become fat. In fact, the first day I stepped on the scale on the Wii Fit, it measured my BMI and said simply and bluntly, “That’s obese.” Ouch! The point is simply that I didn’t like who I was becoming physically, and needed to make some changes to my diet and activity level. Several of you have noticed and asked if I’ve been losing weight, sometimes with concern about whether I’ve been sick, and the answer is yes I’ve been losing weight and no I haven’t been sick – in fact I feel much better than I used to. But thanks for asking, it made me feel cared for.
Institutionally, as “the church”, we’ve also been discussing the question of identity and will continue to. What does it mean to be “the church” in the middle of a drastically different cultural climate than even 30 years ago? It’s a big question… Institutional identity also became the subject of some research I began during my sabbatical in June. I began a Masters of Education program at the UofA, and discovered that many in the university system are asking similar questions as we are in the church – who are we? where do we fit in a changing culture? And I’m really looking forward to learning more and seeing more parallels and ways that we can understand our culture and how we define institutional identity. There are neat overlaps, like the place of the Christian church in the current university, which (in the Western world) were all founded on Christian principles and frequently by very committed Christian people – where is the church in the university world now? I noticed this picture in HUB mall, which certainly tells part of the story: