Nationalism. Privilege. Ancestry. Gender. Politics. All these cultural discussions have an element of identity at their core. Now, like never before, we seem to be asking that question not just about others, but about ourselves. “Who am I?” we ask. “To what do I belong?”
The question of identity is a simple one. You would think that we would be able to give a quick, straightforward answer to an inquiry like this: “Who are you?”
And yet this question – the question of identity – is an increasingly relevant one. Nationalism. Privilege. Ancestry. Gender. Politics. All these cultural discussions have an element of identity at their core. Now, like never before, we seem to be asking that question not just about others, but about ourselves. “Who am I?” we ask. “To what do I belong?”
The answer had no doubt fluctuated for you over time, as it has for me. Who am I? Probably you answered that question differently in middle school than in high school, different in college than in your first job. And still different if you are married and are in the middle of parenting kids.
The Bible, too, has an answer to that question. But the Bible not only answers the question of Who am I, it also answers the question of Who are we? Not just as individuals, but together, as Christians. And here’s one of the places where it does:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits (1 Peter 2:9-12).
So that’s who we are. A royal priesthood. A chosen people. Those who have received mercy. But why does it matter? Why is it important that we know who we are as Christians? Let me then give you six reasons why knowing and understanding our identity as Christians deeply matters:
1. Our identity tells us where we belong.
We want – no, we need – to belong. To identify with a group of people. To love what they love and value what they value. And that’s a question we seem to always be seeking to answer, for in all of us, there is a desire to belong. To know the inside jokes. To be accepted. To be deeply known.
This question of identity answers that question for us. Where do we belong? We belong to the people of God. Our days of being on the outside looking in are over. This is good news. This is news of freedom. It means we don’t have to try and figure how what group to identify with on a daily basis. It means we don’t have to be enslaved with the pressure of constant self-discovery and reinvention. It means that no matter what job we have, no matter how much money we have, no matter what title we have, and even no matter how we feel, the question of who we are has already been answered, and it’s been answered like this:
“You are mine,” and by corollary, “you are with us.”
2. Our identity tells us we are wanted.
Can you just breathe that in for a second with me? You are not only loved. You are not only accepted. But you are wanted. As silly as it is, the image that comes to my mind is the pressure cooker of the elementary school playground when teams are being chosen up. Now perhaps you were always the best athlete on the playground and you spent those moments thinking, Which one of these teams is going to win, because that’s the team that is choosing me. But the rest of us spent those agonizing moments sizing up everyone else out there on that field thinking, Is there anyone for sure that will be chosen after me? Because I don’t want to be the last one.
Knowing your identity means knowing that you are wanted. That God has not just settled for you, but He has in fact chosen you. Oh, friends, it’s such a wonderful thing to be wanted. And that is what you find here, in this chosen people – a people who once were on the outside, but have been chosen to come on in.