The Christian Community and Our Godly Identity

In last week’s post, I talked about the new identities God gives us when we enter a relationship with Him. For those of us with a Western cultural mindset, “identity” is typically connected with “individualism” — who you are that makes you unique from everyone else. But the Bible was written by people with an Eastern cultural mindset, where identity is a more collective concept that involves how you fit in to a group or family.

When we find our identity in God, it is a collective as well as an individual thing. The Christian life isn’t meant to be an isolated one. We’re part of a community, a family. If we neglect to recognize that, then we’re missing out on a huge part of our identity as believers. And if we purposefully cut ourselves off from the community, we reject an incredible blessing.

Being in Christ Is Being in Community

I recently read a fascinating book called Participating In Christ by Michael J. Gorman. One of the key points he makes is that “to be in Christ is to be in community” (chapter 10). We miss this in English far more easily than we could if we read it in Greek.

“This life in Christ is lived not in isolation but only in community. (We must keep in mind that most of the words for ‘you’ in Paul’s letters are plural pronouns, and most often the imperatives are given in the second- [or third-] person plural form.) — (Gorman, Participating In Christ, Chapter 1)

“You (plural) are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). “By grace you (plural) are saved” (Eph. 2:5). We often read these verses, and many others like them, as a deeply individual thing but they’re addressed to a community. Our individual relationships with God are vital. But so is our communal relationship with God and His people. Read more

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It’s Amazing What Happens When God Gives You A New Identity

One of the main themes of this blog is my belief that we find our true identity when we connect with God and learn who He created us to be. In order to do that, sometimes we have to let go of the old ways we used to define ourselves.

People in the Bible had to do this, too. Moses went from prince of Egypt to shepherd in hiding to leader. Saul went from insignificant Benjamite to king of Israel (1 Sam. 9:16, 21). Paul went from a Jewish religious leader persecuting the church to preaching Jesus (Gal. 1:22-24). They all had to change big parts of their identities to become who God intended them to be.

We all have ways we define ourselves. I’m a writer, a sister, a teacher, a dancer, a daughter, an introvert, a person who struggles with anxiety. When we enter relationship with God, we’re called to use our roles and identities for Him. Sometimes, though, we need to leave parts of our identities behind that don’t line-up with His goodness and/or His plan. And we also get to add new aspects to our identities that make each of us a more whole, complete person.

Becoming A “New Man”

Our walk with God is one of transformation. We don’t stay the way we were before salvation. We learn to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” as we “grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ” (Eph. 4:1, 15, WEB). We can’t live in the same way as those who don’t know God once we’ve entered a covenant relationship with the Lord (Eph. 4:16-20).

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What Does It Mean to Be the “Best Version” of Yourself? and How Can We Use That to Live More Authentically?

I once really puzzled someone by talking about being the best version of your true self. They wondered how there could be different versions of you. Aren’t you “yourself” all the time? What else could you be?

In some ways, this young man had an excellent point. For example, if you do something that hurts a friend and then say, “That wasn’t really me,” because it’s something your ideal self wouldn’t do that doesn’t make your friend feel better. That might not be how your idea self would act but you actually did the hurtful thing in real life.

Other people interact with each of us based on the assumption that what they see is the real version of you. They might also see your potential and encourage you toward it, but for them who you are right now is the only version of yourself that exists.

But there are also different roles we play based on context. And many of us struggle with feeling like there’s a true self we hide from the world and then a different self that we show other people. We might also think about an ideal self we don’t measure up to yet. So even though who you are right now is “yourself,” you might also feel like your true/best self isn’t who you’re living as right now.

What is a “best version” of you?

The idea that there’s a “best version” of you assumes there are several different versions. There’s the version of you that your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures wanted you to be. There’s the version of you that fits in with the people you want to call friends. There’s the version of you that you don’t like very much when you look at yourself. There’s the version of you that makes you feel whole and authentic. I’m sure you could come up with others as well.

But are those really different versions of the real you? Or are you simply “you” and all those other “versions” are masks you wear or roles you choose to play?

This might just sound like nit-picking word choice, but there’s a difference between believing there are many versions of you and believing that you’re already your real self. If we go with the latter, being the best “version” of yourself isn’t about picking one of many versions that you want to be but rather about living authentically as the self you already are. Read more

Who Are You? How to Take off Your Masks and Live with Integrity in Your Godly Identity

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. Read more

Exchanging Your Foundation Stones

Some people today treat identity as fluid, easy to change or choose. Whatever you “identify as” in the moment is what matters, and the rest of us are supposed to play along. But identity — the answer to “who are you?” — is actually something formed over time. All our experiences, our personality traits, our choices build who/what you are. There are parts of identity that we can’t change, and if you want to change the other parts it requires hard work and a fundamental shift in how we think and behave.

The word “fundamental” comes from the same root as “foundation” (Latin fundare “to found/lay a base for”). Many of our foundations are laid when we’re young. We ask questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I value?” and we figure out answers that stick with us as we grow. We might not be using those words, but nevertheless we pick up things that become part of our identities and create the lenses through which we see the world.

Building Blocks of Self

Let’s think of each of the things making up our identity as blocks that go into our foundations. Someone who grew up in a good, healthy family might have blocks like “I am loved,” “It is safe to trust other people,” and “I am allowed to have healthy boundaries.” Or they might have grown up in a good family, but still incorporated blocks like, “I am loved, but I’m not worthy of it” or “I can only trust people in my family.” Others, who perhaps didn’t grow up in a good situation at all, have blocks like, “I am not worth loving,” “Trusting other people always leads to me getting hurt,” or “My needs and wants will never be honored.”

These foundational ideas don’t always stay the same. You can swap some out or re-write them as more experiences happen and you make choices about how to live your life. You might lose good foundations as you grow and pick up new blocks that aren’t healthy and supportive. On the other hand, you can also over-write bad foundations and put more positive ideas into your identity. Read more

Seeing Unicorns For What They Really Are

I realized after my last Classics Club post that I’m bad at writing book reviews. I’d intended to just write a short “this is what the books are like, this is what I thought” post for Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels but it turned into an essay on what makes a strong female character and the state of modern feminism. I think I’ll give up on book reviews. Apparently I can only write thoughtful, rambling essays.

That’s not a bad thing though, right? These are classics, after all. People have been writing reviews of them for decades or centuries. If you want to find out about the plot you can go on Goodreads. I’d much rather talk about the ideas prompted by these great books. And I think you might rather read about that, too.

NOTE: this post contains spoilers but not enough, I think, to ruin the book for you

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website. Affiliate links are marked with *

A Perfect Fantasy Book

I feel like The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle* should have been a re-read for me, but this was the first time I’d read it. You’d think as much as I love unicorns and fantasy novels I’d have picked this one up earlier. Especially considering how much everyone loves it. Even the guy who wrote the best fantasy book I’ve ever read says, “The Last Unicorn is the best book I have ever read. You need to read it. If you’ve already read it, you need to read it again” (Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind*).

On the surface, The Last Unicorn seems like a pretty simple book. A unicorn overhears two men say there aren’t any unicorns left in the world. Worried that she might be the last one, she goes out searching for other unicorns and meets with the sort of adventures you’d expect in a fantasy novel. There’s a wizard, a merry band of outlaws, a wise woman, a curse, a wicked king, and heroic prince, a talking cat, and a beautiful princess. But there’s so much more than that, too.

How People See You

There’s a lot going on in this relatively short book, so I’m just going to focus on one theme that I found particularly interesting. When the unicorn first sets out on her search, I expected that problems would arise when people spotted a unicorn walking down the road. But all they see is a white mare. The unicorn is puzzled.

“I suppose I could understand if men had simply forgotten unicorns, or if they had changed so that they hated unicorns and tried to kill them when they saw them. But not to see them at all, to look at them and see something else — what do they look like to one another, then? What do trees look like to them, or houses, or real horses, or their own children?”(p. 11).

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