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Who Are We?

The Voice of Zion September 2022 --

When Jesus was confronted by the High Priest, He was asked, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answered, “I am.” His response affirmed His identity as the Son of God, the Savior of the world. For this, He was put to death. We also, as brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God, are His children. We share the priceless identity. While around us we observe difficulty around discussions about identity, we find that owning – acknowledging and affirming as Christ did His – our identities as children of God brings both liberation and humility.

Religion scholar Amanda Porterfield in 2001 explained that religion in America was still important, but that the trend has been, since the 1960s, to personalize faith rather than to belong to an established congregation. This movement, which she carefully traces in her book The Transformation of American Religion (Oxford University Press, 2001), is one where the dominant forms of Protestantism in North America has taken on the 1960s cultural trend of individualism or “do your own thing.” Personal spirituality replaces trust in the Biblical teaching of one faith, one kingdom.

Today, believers’ identity contrasts sharply with this kind of self-determined Christianity that depends on the individual conscience as a moral compass. We wish instead to remain with a conscience connected to God’s Word whose interpretation is heard in God’s kingdom through His Spirit. While we know that faith is personal, we also know that we cannot of ourselves attain salvation. We wish along with all listeners at Jesus’ feet to “Seek first the kingdom of God.”

As we identify as believers first and foremost, we also acknowledge our earthly existence and its many facets – blessings for us as family members, professionals in the workplace, personalities of vibrancy and substance, an ethnic and racial identity and our gender and its role in serving our lives, the lives of others and God’s kingdom.

In these as in all things, the magnificence of God’s creation work is hidden from our view. Our lack of understanding does not require judgement; we can trust that most perfect Judge who never makes a mistake. We can simply accept God’s creations as given from His loving hand where variation abides according to His plan – we trust that we each were created as we are for a purpose. We needn’t demand that each person conform to a narrow description. God has made all things beautiful in His inscrutable ways.

In encountering those whose identity differs from ours, it is good to remember we are called to be a light, to invite and share our grace gift. The Bible instructs that is not our place to categorize, judge and shun (e.g. Luke 6:37). May we see in all humans the touch of their Creator, an undying soul. May we remember that within any person can exist sorrow over sin, a longing for God, a need for grace. We want to lovingly call all people into God’s kingdom. What words might God allow us to utter to spark in another the hope of eternal life?

For our own part, we acknowledge that there is nothing intrinsically redeeming in any part of our earthly identity. Only faith, a grace gift from God, saves us and brings us to our next life.

The 2022 class of confirmands have studied God’s Word and the doctrine of God’s kingdom. In this world of vast knowledge and information, they find that simple childlike faith will suffice and carry them. Together with them, we can marvel and wonder over God’s goodness and grace. As we together view the pluralistic world around us, we can ponder what God is preparing us for.

In unity with our young ones, we need the blessing of the gospel as we endeavor. Indeed, our desire is to retain the most precious identity: that of a child of God. What a gift it is to have this heavenly identity!

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