The Child in You.
Sooner or later we all must face our identity. Simplistically speaking, identity describes who we are, but if we delve a little deeper we may discover that identity actually controls and governs how we think, speak and even act. When identity is manipulated or twisted by outside forces, individuals suffer great angst and confusion.
The era of the residential schools in Canada for first nation children illustrates the phenomenon. Instituted in order to aid the assimilation and integration of aboriginal culture into the growing Euro-Canadian dominating culture, residential schools were an identity experiment. The Canadian government was hoping that education would make future generations of aboriginal youth think like Euro-Canadians, become economically self-sufficient, and weigh less of a burden on the public purse. The experiment proved to be a dismal failure. Disruption of the family and lack of cultural anchoring left individuals deeply wounded. Recent governmental compensation for survivors of the residential schools experiment raises awareness of the complex nature of identity.
The Apostle Peter seems to be intrigued by identity. Perhaps his interest was first piqued when the extraordinary man named Jesus, whom he had come to follow, changed his name from ‘Simon’ (hears/listens) to ‘Peter’ (little stone). As a result of embracing this new identity, Peter began to recognize references to Christ in ancient prophecies where Christ is called the ‘stone’ (lithos), ‘cornerstone’ (gonia + kephale) and ‘massive rock’ (petra) (Isaiah 28:16; 8:14). Peter was beginning to see his identity in terms of following the Rock of Ages incarnated before him.
Thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter used a letter we call ‘First Peter’ to write to people scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Much of what he describes is about identity. In portions of the first and second chapter he will observe four elements of identity followers of Christ begin to develop as they become more ‘Christ-like’. Peter begins by calling followers of Christ to think of themselves as children.
“As obedient children,” Peter explains, “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
True followers of Christ have been given a fresh start in God’s eyes, called the “new birth”; they are to be “obedient children” in relationship to this Heavenly Father with whom they are now connected by family ties. In fact, they are called to exercise their new God-given ability to be “holy”, pictured in the fresh innocence of a newborn infant. Peter instructs, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Pure spiritual milk is the truth of God found in the Scriptures that feeds our souls and helps us mature into Christlike children of God.
Unlike external identities imposed on us by the agendas of culture around us, the identity of child of God is internal and integral to our being. It is what we were created by God to be. It not only defines who we are, it establishes whose we are. We belong to a loving, compassionate Father who has gifted us with an amazing inheritance: His own godly characteristics implanted within us. It is His nature in us that allows us to develop faith in Him, goodness from Him, knowledge of Him, self-control by Him, perseverance through Him, godliness like Him, brotherly kindness to those created by Him, and love for Him.
There is no angst or confusion in this identity. There is no moral law that is broken by this identity. To be God’s child is the beginning of an eternity of growth and development, of usefulness and challenge, of knowing we are the beloved of the Father. Join with me in thanking the Father that we can leave all other identities behind when we become children again—children of God.