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Friday, 25 May 2012

Who Defines Who I Am?

Who defines who you are, who we are? It's a rather important question and one many of us don't really think about, at least not directly. I was thinking about this after reading a report that said most people think really negatively about Christians, that we are defined as anti-this and anti-that. I guess I wasn't all that surprised, but it did make me think about the 'why.' Even then it wasn't all that hard to see the why. We've allowed a few social issues and those who believe differently than we do on these issues to define us. We're "anti-homosexual" and "anti-abortion" and we are seen as not being very loving or grace-filled in how we engage these issues, at least not in the eyes of those watching. While on a mission and learning trip last year to Nicaragua, the majority of the young adults I was with, who have been raised in the church, see us in the same way. I thought back to what I have taught and preached, and how I have lived out my own faith in front of these young adults, and could not figure out where they came to believe this negative image of who a follower of Jesus is.
Why are these two issues such defining issues in the eyes of those watching us? Maybe it's because we haven't always let love guide our speech or our actions and because we've mostly ignored so many other important issues within our society. If only we have the same passion for justice and fought as hard against poverty, homelessness, and for the well-being of single parents and their children; if we challenged unjust laws and challenged our politicians to really focus on protecting the oppressed, thinking of those who have no voice and helping them be heard. How would people then begin to see us? What if we really acted justly, loved mercy and walked humbly with God
Imagine if we focused on our responsibility to make our world a better place, a little more like the kingdom Jesus is bringing in, instead of insisting on making the world exactly as we determine it should be, as if we are really that wise anyway. Just look at how hard it is for many people in our churches to get along with each other. Maybe we should concentrate more on first changing ourselves through the help of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps if we took seriously Paul's words to the Colossians to "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity
It is not our place to change someone, that is the work of God; our place is to show others how God has changed and is changing us and to walk alongside them, allowing the Holy Spirit work through our love and grace and acceptance. When we are truly changed by God's Spirit, we are then a witness to what God's kingdom stands for and this will define who we are as we have then been shaped by God's love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, acceptance and a healthy sense of responsibility instead of privilege.  
Just thinking out loud here. 


  1. Work out your own salvation with fear and with trembling for God is at work within you. We forget God wants to work within us before He can work through us.

  2. Joe VanderSchuur26 May 2012 at 06:40

    Right on Jake ! I believe that one of the problems facing Jesus followers today is that we call ourselves " Christians " . The label Christian can mean anything today . You can be on any side of any issue and and still be a Christian . Jesus called us to be disciples and to make disciples . And then he went on to tell us how we could identify his disciples . " Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples . " John 13:35
    Joe VanderSchuur