Who are you? It’s a seemingly simple question, but one that all of us must answer and often spend considerable time throughout our lives trying to define. What we often mean by this question is: what makes me valuable? One answer is to look at the possessions we have accumulated, having the newest, biggest, fastest – to define value by what we have. Another way is by evaluating our relationships as parents, children, grandparents, spouses, siblings, friends, coworkers, volunteers; we assign value by how much we are liked. When meeting a stranger, we often first ask about their profession; we see careers as an identity – value based on what we do. We even embrace features of our personality such as being funny, wise, or generous – trying to be worthwhile by what we can provide.
In the search for meaning, people want to know who they are and what purpose they have in this world. So we try on different hats – political affiliations, social groups, opinions, and preferences. We develop a story of self made up of our past experiences, geographical locations, relationships, physical body, education, talents and much more. These are important, but they often fail to express our true value – our complete identity – perhaps because they are answering the wrong question. What if instead of “who are you?”, we asked “whose are you?”
Christians answer this question by turning to scripture and discovering that the Lord has been speaking our names. We are children. We are sheep. We are disciples. We are sinners. We are saints. We are corrupted. We are redeemed. We are strong, and we are weak. We are works in progress, made in the image of God. The gospel tells us that we are no longer our own, for we have been bought with a price – it is Jesus who determines our value! God sent his only son to die and be resurrected to put us into right relationship, freeing us from the bindings of sin. We are first and foremost defined by belonging to Him. When we allow for this truth to be central in our lives – to define who and whose we are, it is then we are able to live as the people we were created to be.
But with all the ways the world tries to tell us who we are, it can be surprisingly difficult to believe that we are cherished and purchased by an infinite, omnipotent God. The evil one does not desire for our identities to be formed in Christ, but to lead us astray. We are tempted to believe the lies that we are not important, not good enough, not full of inherent value. Thus we need to be reminded of our identity regularly, through time with other believers and time with God. As Klyne Snodgrass put it: “church is the place where people go to find their identity and declare their allegiances, and everyone goes to church somewhere.” No one exists independently; we are all connected by our relationships and loyalties, and those connections affect our choices. Plainly put, what we believe in and prioritize will influence all other parts of our being. If we do not stay deeply connected the body of Christ, we will surely drift to a different one.
We will not know who and whose we are until we know the God who created and seeks relation with us. We cannot live differently until we see ourselves differently.