We all live in an ongoing identity crisis that began when humanity lost its true sense of who we each are in the first chapters of scripture, after the creation of the world. This identity theft was orchestrated and accomplished by Satan; “the Accuser, the father of lies.”
Today we enter this ongoing tension with terms like “sexual identity” and “identity preference,” but deep down the voices of condemnation and self-hatred often trump the therapeutic and radical individualistic terms of our day.
The postmodern philosophers are keen to the crisis more than Christians ought to be. Although Foucault’s work is often hailed as one of the inspirations for various identity movements, Foucault himself favors the dissolution of identity rather than its creation or maintenance. Postmodern thinkers tend to see identity as a form of subjugation and a way of exercising power over people, preventing them from moving outside fixed boundaries.
One Christian writer named Henri Nouwen, who struggled with sexual identity, wrote: “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection . . . As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.’ … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
It seems that we are each inclined to empower some one else with the authority to define our identity, even to let others put a price tag on our very worth. The atheist or humanist must make themselves or other people their final authority to define themselves. They do not believe in God or the demonic, therefore they choose to deny their voices. However, to continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, is to remain in the identity crisis filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. Yet, how God thinks of us is the final resolution to the identity crisis.
In Jesus Christ the identity crisis, as it were, is settled once for all. In Adam’s first sin all people are guilty and are under the sentence of condemnation. We remain subject to addictions, confusion, shame, guilt, and alienation (Romans 5). Until we acknowledge our hostility against God (Romans 8:7) and receive God’s love by faith in Christ’s reconciliation on the cross, we will not enjoy being declared pardoned, righteous, children of God, saints, and free. What defined us before we are in Christ will be exchanged for a new identity in his life, death, and resurrection. Are you in Adam living a in the past (B.C.), or are you in Christ living by faith (A.D.)?
Even now God sees Christians with a constant approval, as if we are now what we will one day become. As C. S. Lewis once said in a sermon, “That Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.”