Think of the struggle we are witnessing in our culture over the question of identity. Today, people are on an endless quest of finding an identity in those things that they believe will make them happy. The culture tells people to turn inward and follow the desires of the heart to define one’s identity. And once people believe they have found their true identity, notice how passionate they are to make it known.
With all the challenges surrounding identity, we often tell Christians to be careful of these alternative identities proposed by the world and to pursue the identity we have in Christ. But what is our identity in Christ? Have we thrown this phrase around too loosely without helping people understand precisely what we are talking about? It is not enough simply to tell people that they have a new identity in Jesus. Great attention needs to be given to help people understand what this identity is so that it will be valued and exercised. When we understand how Jesus defines our identity, that understanding forms the foundation for how we are to live in this world as His followers.
JESUS DEFINES OUR IDENTITY
As Jesus opens His Sermon on the Mount, He declares that Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It’s easy to pass over this statement without realizing that Jesus defines our identity as Christians in this world with the metaphors of salt and light. In the Beatitudes that precede His definition of our identity, Jesus describes what we are by God’s grace. Christians are characterized as meek, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers, and as those who rejoice when persecuted. The Beatitudes are not imperatives telling us how to achieve this blessedness. Jesus is describing certain qualities that define the character of true believers, who are blessed by God. In what follows, Jesus expresses how these qualities are demonstrated before the world and reveals what believers accomplish.