Identity is one of the hotly debated topics in modern times. Some struggle with theirs, others seek to understand it, and many question theirs. It’s a topic of discussion in many of the spaces we occupy daily. Yet, I suspect that with all the distractions surrounding us today, very few people pause long enough to reflect deeply on the question: “who am I?” Moreover, if we did ask the question, some of us may not like the answer. The challenge for us is that it is difficult to identify our purpose if we don’t know who we are. Sadly, a life without purpose is like a ship without a rudder. It’s nearly impossible to steer such a ship. Even if the vessel has a desired destination, its destiny will be determined by external forces, not its captain.
My first thought this week is that identity begets purpose, and purpose begets destiny. If we lack or are mistaken about our identity, we’re unlikely to experience the fulfilment which emanates from finding our true purpose and destiny. Therefore, knowing who we are is foundational and significantly influences what we do with our lives. Unsurprisingly, one place where there’s no ambiguity about our identity is the Bible. On its first page, we find that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God [Genesis 1:26]. Elsewhere, God is called our Father, implying that we originate from Him [Luke 11:2]. Consequently, if it’s true that we find our origins in God, then we must look to Him for our identity. Looking elsewhere to understand who we are will lead us astray.
While God is unequivocal about our intended identity, He gives us the freedom to choose who we become. Yet, only those who choose to believe in Jesus assume their God-given identity [John 1:12]. Most books of the Bible, if not all, have something to convey about the identity of believers. However, my current favourite verse on the subject says: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” [1 Peter 2:9]. I can’t think of a loftier identity than being God’s special possession, especially when you realise that God’s chosen ones are the apple of His eye, so anyone who touches them answers to Him [Zechariah 2:8]. Elsewhere, the prophet says God is among believers- a mighty One who will save. He rejoices over them with gladness, quiets them with His love and exults over them with loud singing [Zephaniah 3:17].
If this is all true, it’s paramount to understand the “you” Peter is addressing in his letter because that one verse encapsulates their identity, purpose and destiny. Peter doesn’t leave us guessing. His letter is written to the Church – Jew and Gentile, not a subset of believers [1 Peter 1:1]. The Greek term for “chosen”, eklektos, is the same word Jesus used when He said: “…For many are called, but few are chosen” [Matthew 22:14]. On one occasion, Jesus told His disciples the world won’t end until the Gospel is preached everywhere on earth [Matthew 24:14]. So, everyone will get a chance to be part of God’s family through the redeeming work of Jesus [John 3:16], but as many of us can attest, not all will accept that invitation. However, if you have chosen to join the family of God upon hearing the Gospel [Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:19], then Peter is speaking to you; you are the elect!
The challenge for many of us is believing Peter’s assertion. On any given day, the events and circumstances we experience can make us question who God says we are. For example, if you are going through a tough time financially, physically or emotionally, it can be difficult to imagine God is rejoicing over you. It takes a deep conviction to see past the natural in those situations. Beyond the circumstances we experience, many voices, such as the media and even well-meaning friends and family, suggest alternative monikers to define ourselves. Those labels seem so real because they are perceptible to natural senses. For instance, many of us would probably find being the CEO of a large conglomerate, being associated with earthly royalty or even our political affiliations more meaningful than being identified as God’s special possession. The former often comes with the appeal of wealth, power and fame that we often find all too difficult to turn down.
I have one food for thought this week. Who do you want to be when you die? While I don’t want to be morbid, I’ve found that contemplating our mortality usually gives us perspective. The truth is our earthly identities cease to matter when we die. For instance, I won’t be a husband, a dad, or a son in heaven. Other labels like sexuality, political affiliations, and even our Christian denominations will not matter. After this life, there are no celebrities, no elections, no nobility, and no need for money or the material things many of us lustily desire. Any position we hold will be by divine appointment [Luke 19:11-19]. Earthly accolades will matter to the extent they served God’s purposes. Yet, who we are from God’s perspective matters beyond our last breath. In fact, it determines where we spend eternity. Consequently, our identity from God’s viewpoint is immeasurably more important.
As you read this post, I encourage you to reflect on your primary identity. What is it, and will it matter after your last breath? If it won’t, then maybe you should reconsider. It’s an immense privilege to choose your preeminent identity. But it’s also a decision with eternal consequences. So, choose wisely.