Where do you find your identity? What is at the core of who you are? Some people’s identity is wrapped up in their politics - they are either Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, right-winged or left-winged. Other people’s distinctiveness is linked to their occupation - they are a teacher, a lawyer, a pastor, a nurse, etc. Some find it in their status in life – their wealth or poverty is the defining feature of who they are. Still others define their lives by their language, their speech, their nationality, or their race. It is also common to associate our identity with something that happened to us in the past. It is often difficult to move beyond a past trauma or failure. Sometimes it is equally as difficult to move beyond a past success. Many movie stars who came to fame early on in life have trouble moving past that defining role because everyone still sees them in that way (think Zach Morris and Kevin McCallister).
Undoubtedly, countless experiences, hereditary traits, and traditions go into shaping our identity, and there is nothing wrong with any of that. Those things all make us who we are. However, as Christians our true identity must be found in Christ and in Christ alone. In Colossians 3, Paul writes, “For you died, and your life is now hidden in Christ with God.” He goes on to call Christ our “life.” Paul adds to this idea in Galatians, stating, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." So, does that mean that we stop being who we are? Do we suddenly stop being Americans? Do we stop being black or white? Do our past traumas suddenly disappear? Will people suddenly stop remembering the things that once defined us? No. We have all lived in this world long enough to know that it doesn’t work that way.
So, what does it mean to have our lives hidden in Christ with God? What does it mean that we are one in Christ Jesus? I think it has to do with what is now shaping us. Before we came to know Christ, we were being shaped by the world. We were being defined by its labels, its standards, and its classifications. Now that we know Christ, we should be defined and shaped by Him. In other words, I am still an American citizen, but my true citizenship lies in heaven. So, when the American dream, way of life, or values do not line up with what Christ has shown me, I must choose Christ over my identity as an American. I may vote a certain way and align myself with a certain political party, but when that party goes against God and His Word, I must put down my political allegiances and align myself with Him. I may work as a teacher and a pastor, but if I were to lose my titles tomorrow, I would not lose who I am because my true life is found in Christ. People may remember me for things that I have done in the past, but I cannot let those things mold who I am now. I am no longer my past, but I am who God says I am.
Unfortunately, some Christians choose to identify with the things of the world rather than with Jesus Christ. Some are more concerned about whether you vote Democrat or Republican than they are about whether or not you have a relationship with the Savior of the world. Some Christians are more concerned about preserving the American dream than they are about preserving the Words of life for the next generation. Others would identify with you based on the color of your skin, your job, or your economic status in life quicker than they would identify with you as a brother or sister in Christ. This should not be. When we come to Christ, we lay all of those things at the feet of Jesus to be found in Christ and Christ alone. Our lives should be hidden in Him, covered by His blood, and washed by His Spirit. He should define us and shape us. He should be our life and identity. As Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”