Monday, January 9, 2017

God's Property - Reflecting on My Identity in Jesus

God owns me. My redemption and adoption secure my place in his household. Through the blood of Jesus and seal of the Spirit, I am God’s blessed child. To forget this fact is to forsake my true identity.

Sadly, various voices make rival claims for my soul. My job tries to take possession of me. It demands more than my nine-to-five allegiance. Work creeps into my weekend and nightmares. Obsessively, I check my phone for emails.  Incessantly, I craft my sermon to perfection.

My consumer goods try to take possession of me. Old things tell me they're worn out and ready to retire. New things shout false promises of happiness. Advertisements come through my phone and TV screens; they blare from billboards and arrive direct in my mailbox.

My physical appearance tries to take possession of me. I ignore its signs of middle age—balding, bloating, and bad knees—and pretend still to be sprite. “I am a runner,” I proclaim. “I can still wear an Adult Small," I lie. (Mediums fit better.)

My expressions of leisure try to take possession of me. I push against the streaming impulse of binge-watching and social media. I binge read and evade Facebook. But I regularly check Yahoo Sports and my Twitter feed.

My religious affiliation tries to take possession of me. I can pile up modifiers -- born again, evangelical, Grace Brethren, progressive-conservative, non-liturgical-but-as-traditional-as-the-rest-of-them (whoever "them" is) -- to narrow my niche to a point. My moral convictions only sharpen the point to a sting.

I have only scratched the surface. Rival voices abound. Our social classes and Linked In networks, alumi and sports teams, soda brands and cell providers, dietary fads and hobby clubs, successes and self-help groups, mental disorders and family dysfunctions all make claims for us. 

In reality, these interests and factors identify us by reduction. We become algorithms instead of image-bearers. I echo Jarod Lanier's titular sentiment: You Are Not a Gadget. I offer Eugene Peterson's warning against dehumanizing our souls into impersonal functions.
In our present culture all of us find that we are studied, named, and treated as functions and things. "Consumer" is the catch-all term for the way we are viewed... To be treated as a consumer is to be reduced to being used by another or reduced to a product for someone else's use. It makes little difference whether the using is in a generous or selfish cause; it is reduction. Widespread consumerism results in extensive depersonalization. And every time depersonalization moves in, life leaks out. (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 39)
We must not let reductive titles take possession of our identity. We are not gadgets. We are not consumers. We are not cogs in a machine, affiliates in a religion, or aging bodies grasping for former glory. We are so much more. We are image-bearers of God. And we, who follow Jesus, are God's treasured possession (1 Peter 2:9).

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This post reflects upon my Unlikely Belonging sermon (1 Peter 1:1-12). For further reflection, consider these questions:
  • From my list above, what voices try to possess your soul? What other voices could you add?
  • How do you reduce people in various contexts (home, school, work, church, social media, shops/restaurants, entertainment)
  • What words do you hear God speak over you as it relates to your true identity?
  • Will you accept the Misfit Mission? See picture below.

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