This is the first of three talks given at Freedom House Church, in Salt Rock, South Africa. These are the notes for the video recording of Talk One.
Definition: Identity is our sense of self, in relation to others, decided and formed in a mix of beliefs, values, culture, personality, gender, ethnicity, social status, achievements, and even hurt/pain.
Process: Identity is given, but also formed, and/or chosen, and even imposed (if one accepts it).
The Question is: Who are you? Post-modern confusion (dysphoria) is not knowing who we are. We identifying with what we feel/sense about ourselves, what we think others think of us, and so on.
Way of the world: ‘Self-identifying’ – the basis of ‘expressive individualism’, i.e., to be my authentic self, and thus to be happy, I must self-identify as I choose, as suits me, and be free to live it out.
Biblical view of identity: ‘God-identifying’ – the basis of ‘fulfilled personhood’, i.e., God identifies us in creation and in new creation, to fulfil our true nature and destiny as God intended for us.
FIRST CREATION – Identified in/through Creation Design – the Genesis Story:
1st Human identity: Genesis 1:26-27, “let us make ha adam (the human) in our image and likeness”. Human identity is God’s image – to reveal God’s likeness as his image-bearers.
2nd Sexual identity: Gen 1:27, “male and female created he them” – man or woman image-bearers.
3rd Personal identity: Gen 2:20,23; 3:20, “he named them…” – names identify the person; they call forth and describe the nature and purpose of the person (“Eve” = “living”, mother of all living).
It has been the same, in the same order, throughout history. The wife first says to husband, “we’re going to have a baby!” Then, “it’s a girl (or boy)!” And then, thirdly, “her (or his) name is….”
That means: “Let US (Trinity) create ha adam in our image” = we’re born and identified in relationship, by relationship, for relationship. Mom + Dad = me! Gabriel Marcel said, “The ‘I’ is the child of the ‘We’”, i.e., community defines personhood. The individual (individualism) does not define community. We are defined by those to whom we belong, by those who love and form us for life.
This is embodied in the Semitic idea of naming and the use of names.
1) “Simon bar Jonah” = Simon the son of Jonah: we are known by those who whom we belong.
2) Names embody identify and call forth (prophetically) the nature and destiny of the person. “You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). God changes names of people if needed, ‘Jacob’ to ‘Israel’ (Gen 32:27-28). What does your name mean?
‘THE FALL’ RESULTS IN BROKEN IDENTITY – human rebellion against God:
Man’s identity. Genesis 3:17-19, his ‘bent’ (identity) will be toward work (the earth): he was taken from the earth and ‘in pain’ he will toil the earth to bring forth food. Thus, male identity since ‘The Fall’ of humanity in the garden has traditionally been: Provider, Protector, and Procreator.
Woman’s identity. Genesis 3:16, her ‘bent’ (identity) will be toward man (her husband): she was taken from the man and ‘in pain’ she will bring forth children for the man. Thus, female identity since ‘The Fall’ has traditionally been: Wife, Mother, and Home-maker/keeper.
Creation design identity reversed: now broken and illegitimate identity, not derived from our being (being God’s image), but from our doing (doing work, performing, achieving, etc).Biblically, ‘being’ precedes ‘doing’, which is natural outflow of being. To find our identity in our doing is broken creation, having to be the protector, provider, procreator, etc. It is ‘The Fall’ from “Simon bar Jonah” to “Simon the fisherman”, from “Alexander son of God” to “Pastor Alexander”, or “Apostle…”, “Doctor…”.
To be known (called and identified) by our doing, as in our achievements, position, title, social class, etc, is false identity. To find our identity in our ministry, or work, or in what others say or don’t say about us, is a disaster waiting to happen. Jesus rejected titles, dress codes, preferential treatment, positions of prominence, etc, as a means of identity and honour in his Kingdom (Matthew 23:5-12). That is the way of the world, not the way of Jesus.