“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 1:13b NIV)
Have you noticed how our protective face masks have become useful as identity markers? We’re seeing them designed with logos, symbols, flags, or colours representing various group identities: sports teams, activist movements, social identities, or nationalities. Undoubtedly, this trend reflects our bent for creative expression.
Yet, it goes far deeper: it’s about survival — literally. Everyone needs connection — a sense of identity within a community — to survive and live well. We’re hardwired that way. So then, since we’re made that way by our Creator Himself, how might He view our plethora of identity markers, whether on face masks or otherwise? Furthermore, how should those of us who identify as Christian regard the diversity of identities, including those troubling to us? Here’s my thinking:
At the outset, let’s acknowledge that identity groups fulfill a God-given need for belonging and meaning, for security and significance. It’s the need to be loved and to love.
Actually, we’re each a kaleidoscope of identities through our diverse roles and relationships. So, why do certain identities take precedence in our minds? Is it not through a heightened awareness of who we are not? This was certainly my experience while overseas. Unfamiliar language, customs, and other markers of foreign identities made me aware that I was not one of them. My identity was Canadian! So, I proudly displayed my Canadian identity marker: my maple leaf jacket. Surely, that’s okay.
Yet, it’s not okay when identity groups strive against each other. This achieves nothing, but merely threatens each other’s core human need to belong. No wonder! The more we’re perceived to oppose a particular identity group, the more we’ve reinforced their efforts to defend their existence. We’ve merely reminded them of who they are not! Thus, we’ve created two opposing identities — prone toward endless division.
It’s often suggested, “If only people would set aside their differences.” That’s assuming those differences are trivial options, when in fact, they are vital marks of personhood.
Let’s consider the ultimate feature which all humanity has in common. See if you can detect that feature in the following lyrics (which represent two radically opposing identities):
- “I’m alone in the universe. So alone in the universe.” — from the musical “Seussical”
- “Alone I would perish; undone would I be.” — from the hymn “Hiding in Thee”
Do you see the common feature? It’s a longing for connection with the Transcendent. Our Creator hardwired us for Himself. Furthermore, He provided the means — through His Son. In Christ, we are united with Him and established into an entirely new identity, where earthly distinctions no longer divide us.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
Above all, in the Holy Spirit, we have a brand-new identity marker Who transcends all our human differences. Let us allow Him to do His work of reshaping and remoulding our attitudes accordingly.
Prayer: Lord, reveal where we have turned particular marks of our earthly identities into divisive idols. Empower us to regard them as “rubbish”, that we may live fully in Your Spirit, through Whom peace is established. Amen.
Copyright © 2021, by Diane Eaton <email@example.com>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca .
Paisley, Oregon, USA
Reprinted from PresbyCan with author’s permission