This interesting article in Baptist News Global relates a survey among American Christians asking how we order the many identities which we all carry — family, faith, country, job, etc.
In our confined, enclosed sanctuaries inside of which we share our lives and encourage each other in the faith, we easily say we put faith atop our list — that our first identity is as a Christian. In the open ended, outside-the-church survey done by Barna, there is a disturbing — to me — trend for American Christians to identify themselves first as Americans.
As we approach Easter — the most important, time searing, earth shuddering event in human history — I’m reminded of Peter, who chose to shed his identity as a follower of “that Galilean” in favor of anonymity. Any identity we claim for ourselves ahead of the brand burned into our soul as followers of Christ diminishes our proclamation that Jesus is first in our lives.
Are we Americans? Yes, and likely proudly so. Are we parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, soul mates, best buddies? Yes and happily so. Are we carpenters, lawyers, salesmen, nurses, teachers, brick layers? Yes, and gratefully so. Do we belong to a political party, Kiwanis, Rotary, Boy Scouts? Sure.
But, who and what are we first? Putting something first means you will measure the value of everything that falls later on your list against that which is at the top. If your professional identity is first, then there really is no conflict when you miss an anniversary or your kids’ events in favor of more time at the office.
If your first identity is as an American, then there is no conflict to support a national policy that may conflict with the words of Jesus to “love your enemies” or that ignores care for widows and orphans or that persecutes strangers in your midst, even though you once were a stranger.
If your first identity is as a family person, there is no conflict to leave work early to attend a child’s event, or to arrange a surprise for your husband. There is no conflict to withhold contributions to the church in favor of a family vacation.
You see where all of this leads. What is your first identity? If someone asks, “Who are you?” or says upon meeting, “Tell me about yourself,” with what identity do you start?
Peter in the courtyard started with what he was not: “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” (Mark 14:71)
May we top our own list of identifying factors with the proud proclamation that “I am a follower of Jesus the Christ.” When that conviction becomes the organizing principle of your life other identities and priorities will fall into a clarifying order.