As a lecturer for Houston Baptist University’s Honors College, I have the privilege of shepherding each new freshman class through the Iliad and Odyssey. In the former epic, Achilles, the greatest soldier in the history of Western literature, suffers something of an existential identity crisis as he questions who he is, what his purpose is, and whether life has any meaning. In the end, he makes peace with himself and his community, but only by returning to the narrow parameters that define the good life, the good man, and the good society in the microcosm of the epic.
Within the context of the Iliad, the resolution is both powerful and satisfying, but it does not resolve the deeper question that all people must answer: not “How do I know I have value as a Greek warrior living in the Mycenaean Bronze Age?” but “How do I know I have intrinsic value apart from my profession, my gifts, or my family relations?” After all, we can lose our jobs, become physically incapable of using our gifts, and watch helplessly as those we love are carried off by violence, disease, or inescapable old age.
Surely, an identity that rests solely upon skills, awards, or people that can be suddenly and irrevocably taken away is tenuous at best. There must be a more stable foundation on which to build. Thankfully, the Christian gospel provides just such an unshakable foundation: that the God who created us thought us of such value that he not only sent his Son to die for us but sent him at the very moment when we were the most rebellious and unlovable (Rom. 5:8).
Given this great declaration of God’s unconditional love and our inestimable value, one might think that Christians would not struggle with issues of identity and self-worth. Yet struggle we do, particularly in the face of an incessant media onslaught that tells us we cannot be happy, successful, or even fully human unless we use a certain product, look a certain way, or measure up to a certain standard. Rather than define ourselves by Christ’s love for us, we allow society to define our identity in innumerable ways, all of which run us ragged and leave us empty.
A Much-Needed Antidote
Enter Identity Theft: Reclaiming the Truth of Who We Are in Christ, a simple but profound book that offers a much-needed antidote to the angst and confusion of our times. Edited by Melissa Kruger, an author, speaker, and editor for The Gospel Coalition, Identity Theftbrings together ten incisive, accessible essays from evangelical women that combine solid biblical exegesis with sound, common-sense advice. Though each of the essays is free-standing, framed by the life experiences and particular interests and emphases of its author, nine of the ten are structured around a specific three-step process.
Kruger describes those steps as follows in her introduction:
Identity theft: Expose our false notions of identity.
Identity truth: Understand the biblical truth of our identity in Christ.
Identity transformed: Reflect on what it looks like to live in our new (and true) identity.
While most of us would like to jump ahead to the transformation part, we cannot assume our true and full identity in Christ before first seeing through the false identity thrust upon us by society and then searching the Scriptures to determine what exactly it is that Christ desires to do in and through us.
In order to set the stage for this threefold process by which we can reclaim, and then strengthen and mature, our God-given identities from a world that would steal, twist, and pervert them, Jen Wilkin offers an opening essay built around a different triad. Wilkin, a popular Bible teacher whose books include Women of the Word, reminds us that we do not immediately become perfect Christians the moment we are saved. As she succinctly phrases it, Christian growth proceeds through three stages: salvation, which sets us free from the penalty of sin; sanctification, which sets us free from the power of sin; and glorification, which sets us free from the presence of sin. Only by understanding and working our way through this process can we hope to avoid what she identifies as the false freedoms of license, legalism, and escapism.
Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today