‘Who are you?’ It is one of the most basic questions in life – one of the most profound questions of the human soul. And how we answer says a lot about us – how we see ourselves, how others see us and even, how we see God – and think God sees us. In childhood, it takes the form of wondering what we will do when we grow up – train driver – zoo keeper – ballet dancer – footballer.
A few years ago, a TV programme from my childhood achieved cult status with University students. ‘Mr Ben’ experienced a renaissance. Each day he would go into a clothes shop – take a different set of clothes into the changing room – and leave the shop for a magic adventure. One day he was an astronaut – next, an Inuit – then, a firefighter. Returning to the shop, he would put on his own clothes and return home. The implication was clear – Mr.Ben’s own life was very boring but a different identity each day meant adventure.
The tragic thing is to meet adults who still haven’t discovered who they really are. In adulthood, inevitably, we settle for an identity – maybe linked to our career, friends or family – or our relationship status. But is who we are really defined by our nationality, job, where we live, or even our Facebook status, latest tweet, photo on Instagram or our internet search history? Surely there is more to us than that?
A few weeks ago, the media were full of the revelations about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s father. The tabloids were about to go to town on Justin Welby’s discovery that his mother had had an affair just before she married the man Welby thought was his real Dad. But the papers were stopped in their tracks by Justin Welby’s response. He simply said this. ‘I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in Him never changes.’
It was a simple and yet profound truth – and stopped the tabloids in their tracks. Who we are in Christ is who we really are! It is there again and again in the New Testament. Jesus said,
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
John 8:31 (NIV)
Free to be the people that we were always meant to be – knowing we are deeply loved and unconditionally accepted by God who knows us inside out – and still sees so much potential in us.
We live in a nation where 63% of the population have never read a Bible. As a consequence, they do not know who they are. They don’t know their real identity. It is an identity based, not on ethnicity, birthplace, accent, salary, achievement or even morality – but it is to be found in the One who made them, loves them – and longs for them to return home to Him. God says, ‘This is my beloved Son – listen to Him.’
If we are to find our true identity, we need to do just that!
Rev Canon Dave Richards
Rector at St Paul’s and St George’s, Edinburgh.