How many versions of you are there? Are you a different person behind the wheel of your car than you are when speaking to your grandmother? Do you play one part at work and another part with friends on the weekend? Do you hide parts of yourself or change the way you present yourself based on circumstances?
We all do this. To a certain extent, it’s useful to make your behavior fit the context. You don’t want to wear the same clothes, for example, to grub out a stump in the backyard as to attend a wedding. But when the change is more extreme — polite to a date but angry and vindictive when driving in traffic — it can be a problem.
Integrity comes form the Latin word integer, meaning something whole and complete in itself. If you are a person with integrity then there is only one version of you (“The True Meaning of Integrity” by So-Young Kang). You act with honesty and live by strong moral principles whether or not someone is watching. People with integrity apologize when they are wrong or cause inconvenience, they refuse to act viciously even when fighting, and they give others the benefit of the doubt (“7 Signs of People With Integrity” by Seth Meyers).
It’s very difficult to live with complete wholeness and consistency. And it’s well-nigh impossible to do so if you don’t know who you are and what you believe. As the Biblical writer James said, “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed” (James 1:6, WEB). We need an anchor for our identity if we’re to live with integrity.
How God Defines You
As Christians, we know that since God made us and dwells in us He knows us even better than we know ourselves. It makes sense, then, that if we want to figure out who we are we should go to Him for answers. Thankfully, God offers those answers by inspiring Bible writers to talk about how the Lord sees us.
Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, which you are. (1 Cor. 3:16-17, WEB)
What agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk in them. I will be their God and they will be my people.” Therefore “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18, WEB)
In these two passages alone we learn quite a bit about how God views us. You are part of God’s temple. You’re the place where He has chosen to dwell. You are holy in His eyes and separate from the world. You are sons and daughters of God. These are all parts of your identity in Him.
What’s On Your “I Am” List?
God reveals more aspects of our identity in other places. He says you are worth dying for (Rom. 5:8). He says you belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-21). He says you are salt and light in this earth (Matt. 5:13-14). You are called and chosen (1 Pet. 2:9). You are friends and siblings of Jesus Christ (John 15:14, Rom. 8:16-17). You are greatly loved and highly valued by both the Father and the Son (John 3:16; 15:13-14). These are all truths that we can hold onto as key parts of our identities.
Just a few days ago, I went with a friend to see the new film Overcomer. Tears filled my eyes as I watched Hannah write an “I am __” list based on the truths revealed about us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It’s a great exercise to do if you’re wanting to discover or rediscover your identity in Christ. Just read through Ephesians chapters 1-2 and write down everything God says about you. And maybe take the time to listen to Lauren Daigle’s song “You Say” (which I’ve included in this post).
Be Whole, Not Hiding
The verses we just looked at describe how God sees His people and what He wants us to be. We can either accept and live in these identities or run away from them. The choice is ours.
Sometimes we reject what God says of us because we’re scared. We think maybe God wouldn’t want all of us and/or that we’re too broken to change. We try to hide our dark parts from God and resist accepting what He says about us, when really what we need most is to let Him shine light into our darkness. No matter how broken you are, God can heal you and make you part of His family.
Other times, though, we deliberately live out-of-step with who we’re truly meant to be. Some do this openly but most in the church try to at least put on a show of following God. When we pretend to be one thing but are inwardly very different than what we should be it makes us (in the oldest sense of the word) hypocrites. The Greek word Jesus used to identify hypocrites was hupokrites (G5273) — an actor playing a role. Hyprocrites are one thing inside but they outwardly pretend to be something else. The self they present to the world is no more real than a character on stage. In short, they lack integrity. That is not how we’re to live.
if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. Therefore putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor. For we are members of one another. (Eph. 4:21-25, WEB)
God wants us to come to Him with our whole heart, not with pretense (Jer. 3:10; 24:7). He wants us to have wholeness and unity with/in Him and also with each other. We’re to live in holiness of truth, including the truth of our identity in God. We’re also to speak truth to others. Our lives must not be characterized by falsehood, masks, and pretense any longer. We need to embrace what God says of us.
Anchor Your Identity In God
Even after we enter a relationship with God and take on our true identity in Him, it’s not always easy to live as the person He means for us to be. Paul talked about our “old man” being put to death with Christ and our “new man” being raised together with Him. But he also talks about struggles between our human nature and our spiritual nature (Romans 6-7). Even the most mature Christians have to fight to live wholeheartedly for God.
I recently heard this struggle articulated in a song by Sidewalk Prophets called “Change This Heart.” It’s the cry of a heart that has given itself to God but feels “my life is still the same / everyday’s the same old puzzle / all the pieces rearranged.” So they ask God, “change this heart again” — to come into their life on an ongoing basis and continue recreating them in spite of the facts that “I have so many masks / to cover up and hide.”
We need to live with integrity not just in relation to other people but also in relation to God. It’s time to give our whole, authentic selves to Him instead of trying to hide behind masks. Humans have been trying to hide from God since the Fall (Gen. 3:7-10). Let’s not continue that tradition. Let’s honestly reveal our true selves to God and let Him turn us into the truest, most perfect versions of ourselves.
God says you are precious to Him and that you are His children (among many other amazing statements about who you are). When we keep those truths in mind and hold on to our identities in Him, we can live with wholeness and integrity in all areas of our lives. He will give us an anchor for our souls, freeing us to stop worrying about who we are and start living in our individually beautiful, god-given identities.
Featured image credit: Laurentiu Robu via Pexels