In reading John 1 verses 12 and 13 stood out to me. God writes, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (NIV)
Many times in my life I have been told that we Christians, or more specifically “Kevin you should…” take your identity in Christ. This is absolutely true. The ultimately important identity I have is not in my performance, my ministry, my education, my sports, my blog, etc. etc. The most important identity I have is that I am an adopted child of God. And as a child of God that is a status that doesn’t change. Good son, bad son, I am still a son. There is no amount of sin that I could do that would make God abandon me. This is all an incredibly comforting situation…if you believe in Jesus.
However, God reminded me this morning of how these verses, and the exhortation to “take my identity in Christ, not in other things” were very hurtful. I never felt I had a solid identity in Christ, my self-image was not “I am an adopted son of Jesus who is loved unconditionally” my basic self image (pretty well formed by around the time I was leaving elementary school) was “You are a bad person that doesn’t deserve love; you deserve rejection.” Furthermore, again my image of Jesus was totally distorted by my childhood experiences. I believed in a graceless god that I call Bob who I thought was actually Jesus. Bob was vindictive, punitive, and graceless…so why would I want to be a child of that abusive of a father? Part of me resisted and could not take my identity in this “Jesus” yet at the same time the Christian community was encouraging me to take my identity in Jesus.
This filtered through my self-image and experiences in life basically just became yet another high standard that I was supposed to live up to but was failing at. Instead of being a comforting truth to take hold of regarding my unconditional status before the God of the universe who was just and loving, it was yet another sign that I was a failure and I was bad.
Now, as I’ve been inviting Jesus to make His character known to me in a real way I am also slowly sorting out my own understanding of myself. If God is who He says He is in scripture, and these passages and others in John are true about my adoption by this God, then that does say something about me, and it certainly isn’t my past/current self-image. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.