Pensée #3 – Are You a ____ Christian or a Christian ____?
So much of this past year’s rancor has centered on identities and narratives. Narratives try and explain why things are and who we are. Political, racial, and sexual identities are front and center in our society. What is troubling is my perception is that many Christians are choosing these secondary identities as their primary identity over who they are in Jesus Christ. To be a Christian requires that my Christian identity be my primary identity and my racial, political, and sexual identities are clearly secondary.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Look at this verse with me. Jew or Greek. Racial identity. Slave nor free. Economic identity; you could argue political identity. Male and female. Sexual or gender identity. The Apostle Paul says these are not primary anymore. Not in the gospel. Not in the church. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You can know what your primary identity is because it’s where your true belonging, significance, and passion lie. You can tease people about secondary identities. I do it all the time as a Dutch guy making Dutch jokes. I’m safe doing so because being Dutch isn’t my primary identity, and people laugh about it if being Dutch isn’t their primary identity either. But you joke about someone’s primary identity, and they are quickly offended. You don’t mess with a primary identity.
There are way too many professing Christians who have as their primary identity their political or racial ideology. That was on full display this past election cycle. Were you devastated? Triumphant? Who is your Messiah actually? Where is your hope actually placed? Is even my saying this offending you? Are you kind of proving my point? Similarly, our racial identity as Christians can’t be the center locus for everything either. What is the Lordship of Jesus if not the enthronement of Jesus in my life and who I am in him as my primary identity? My spiritual identity transcends my racial identity.
Make sure your noun is Christian and all the other identities are adjectives. When adjectives become nouns, you tribalize around something other than Christ alone.
Am I an American Christian or a Christian American? Am I a Christian Hoosier or a Hoosier Christian? Democrat Christian or Christian Democrat? Republican Christian or Christian Republican? Am I am Latino Christian or a Christian Latino? Christian Caucasian or Caucasian Christian? Christian African American or African American Christian? Christian Presbyterian or Presbyterian Christian? Christian Baptist or Baptist Christian? You get my point?
This year was filled with adjectives turned into nouns. Even our racial identities are secondary to who we in Christ. Revelation 4 prophesies the future gathering of redeemed humanity around the throne. Every tribe, tongue, language, and people, “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:12)
Since the church is the emergence of heaven on earth, who we are in Jesus is our defining reality—all these other things are secondary. In society, the secondary things are the primary things because they don’t have any other primary thing. They tribalize around politics and politicians and power and narratives of meaning. As a Christian, I have far more in common with a Venezuelan Christian than I do with another American, as much as we love and appreciate our country. Jesus is greater than America. Jesus is greater than China. Jesus is greater than Russia, Assyria, Babylon, Rome or any other kingdom of this world. The world can melt down and kingdoms can fall, but nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Make being a Christian your primary, your noun, and let all other identities be far, far beneath Jesus.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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