Monday, June 13, 2011

Are We Facing An Identity Crisis On A Monday Morning?

I still remember the trauma and the drama of those adolescent years when I spent so much time trying to define myself. It is all a normal part of growing up, when it is time to take a step back from your parents and decide for yourself what values you want to hold on to, what you believe and what direction you want to take. If only it was that simply put and understood when I was in the midst of it instead of it being such a confusing time of life. Some people walk through it with some ease, never rebelling, always sure of their faith, slowly evolving in their perspective. Others go through a rather dramatic struggle, kicking against all authority in an attempt to "find" themselves. The good news is that everyone eventually gets there.

The real problem arises in later years when that, now adult, person begins to question if they made the right decisions during those years. They may even begin to experience an identity crisis as the things they have based their life on begin to erode away. Are they who they are suppose to be or is it all a façade they have maintained for years? Sometimes I look at this and wonder if that is where most Christians are, lost in an identity crisis.

Looking at how we respond to the things around us, the decisions we make, the words we speak and the things that overwhelm us at times, it is as if we have forgotten who we are and who we belong to. Sometimes we allow the simplest things to fill us with fear and to rob us of our joy. We allow nonsense things to change our moods in an instant. We act as if we have no spine, failing to stand in the face of uncomfortable circumstances, as if we have to face these things alone. I honestly believe we have failed to understand the authority we have as brothers and sisters of the King, children of our heavenly Father.

For me, one of the most striking moments in the gospels came with the arrest of Jesus. A crowd had come to capture Jesus, to bring him to a secret trial before the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of Israel. Some think this crowd to have been made up of Roman soldiers but it wasn't. There were a few temple guards, some servants, but most were hired thugs. They were led to Jesus by one of his own, Judas, who had been paid for his services. The disciples were still groggy, having just woken from their nap, so there was a lot of confusion to what was going on. There was yelling and lots of noise but out of it stepped Jesus:

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” (John 18:4)

For most of us our fear is rooted in the unknown where we imagine worse-case scenarios that rarely transpire. We suffer from unfounded fear. Here Jesus knew what was going to happen, that it was the worse-case scenario, yet he stood there with authority not with fear. He was the one taking command of this thing, not them. He was the one asking the questions, not them. So they responded:

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. (John 18:5)

Now I want you to pay attention to what happens as Jesus speaks with the authority he possessed, the same authority we have been given:

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:5-6)

As Jesus spoke they could not stand in the face of this authority. This is the same voice that commanded demons to flee. The same voice that spoke health and healing into countless bodies. The same voice that commanded life back into the dead and called his friend out of the tomb. Are we really surprised that they could not stand in the face of such authority?

Not for a moment did Jesus struggle with his identity, who he was and who he belonged to. People struggle with their identity when they do not know their parents or when they reject their parents. Those who are able to accept who they are do so because they are able to embrace where they came from. Jesus' identity was maintained because of his relationship with our Father. He spent a great deal of time explaining to his disciples that he did not come in his own authority but his Father's. He also told his disciples that by knowing him they also knew the Father. This spoke of the depth of this relationship.

We have this same authority as Jesus and it is not because we are mighty and powerful or because we have knowledge and wisdom. It is not the result of long years of study or any skill we possess. It has nothing to do with us at all. We have this same authority for the same reason Jesus had it: because of relationship. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ. It is due to our relationship with him that we have been transformed. It is due to this same relationship that we have gained such knowledge of the Father. It is by this relationship that we are possessed by the Holy Spirit. It is because of this very intimate relationship we have with Jesus that we are able to speak with such great authority to the things that threaten to destroy us.

We should not be suffering from any identity crisis as we move through our day today. We should feel no fear, worry or anxiety about anything because we know who we are and who we belong to. We also know our purpose which hinges on loving God and loving others. Today should not be a day filled with distractions from this mission as we love people and allow Jesus to reveal his glory through us for them to see. No circumstances can rob our mouths of those words of kindness and gentleness. No trouble can remove our infectious joy. No hardship can cause us to forget that it's no longer about us but instead it is about others. We can deal with all of these things because of our relationship with Jesus who has given us such wonderful authority so that our lives would bring him glory. Today is not a day of defeats but of wonderful victories. Today, we know who we are and who we belong to and we will live to bring him glory.

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