Why do socks always disappear? Are eyebrows considered facial hair? At a movie theater, which arm rest is yours? Why does quicksand work slowly?
Life has some perplexing questions… but perhaps the hardest question we are asked is “who are you?”
There’s a chick flick from the early 2000s called The Nanny Diaries. In a clip from the movie, the main character Scarlett Johansson interviews for a job position of a large firm. She sits down, thinks she’s ready. And the first question that she is asked is “Who are you?”
She stares blankly into the camera… “Um could you repeat the question?”
After a long pause she awkwardly shifts in her seat and confesses, “I have absolutely no idea.”
She knew where she was from, how old she was, what people liked about her, but who was she? Who was she really? She didn’t know.
FIND YOUR IDENTITY IN WHO HE IS
The world tells us to look inside ourselves and discover who we are. It’s sounds like a nice idea. But I know myself better than that.
Be myself? Yikes!
That’s the scariest thing I can be. On my own I’m fallen, incomplete, and selfish. But Jesus in me…. now that’s something.
On my own I’m unforgiving. With Jesus I forgive.
On my own I’m insecure. With Jesus I’m accepted.
On my own I’m self-righteouss. With Jesus I’m righteous.
On my own I’m scared. With Jesus I’m fearless.
Our world tells us to find our identity by who we love, who we know, and what we do. But Jesus tells us to find our identity in who He is.
If you think that identity is something new that we struggle with today, I’d like to introduce you to the book of Ephesians to clue us in on the centuries-old struggle.
IDENTITY IS A CENTURIES-OLD STRUGGLE
Let me set the stage of Ephesus.
In the ancient world, Ephesus was a bustling hub of commerce, a center for travel and a house to the gods. Inside the city stood the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
If you are like me, you may picture ancient cities with dirt roads and make-shift huts, but after teaching history for the last few years, I learned that this city looked a little different.
Positioned at the mouth of a large river at the edge of the Aegean Sea, the city was a well-known seaport in the ancient world. Three major roads led from the seaport. The main street of the city was the Arcadian Way, paved with marble slabs one hundred feet wide.
This city was built for big business, and like many cities today, it did not lack depravity throughout its populated streets. Ephesus was full of prostitution, witchcraft, thievery, murder, and sexual immorality.
If I was Paul and I was writing a letter to this city, I would tell them to stop sinning and to repent of their wicked ways, much like I want to do with America these days. But Paul knew that he couldn’t tell the city to live right until they knew who they were living for.
What does Paul do in the first three chapters of Ephesians? Basically all he does in the first three chapters of Ephesians is remind them who they are in Christ.
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1:5-10).”
WE ARE DEFINED BY WHO LOVES US… JESUS
Our culture is very confused about identity, especially since the conversation surrounding our sexuality has become more mainstream. It’s considered normal to ask ourselves who am I? Am I a boy? Am I a girl? Am I bi. Am I gay? Am I LGBTQ+?
It’s society’s belief that individual identity develops over a lifetime, including sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words…. we are told that our sexual identity is something we can choose and discover over our lifetimes.
We are told to find our identity in who we love. That who we love is who we are. But our identity is not in manliness or womanliness but godliness. It’s less about sexual orientation and more about gospel orientation. We must find our identity in Christ. Then, and only then, can our hearts truly change. Then, and only then, will we love the things He loves.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).”
We shouldn’t be defined by what we like or who we love… those things are secondary. And we can only expect our love to be properly ordered when His love is first in our lives. As born again believers in Jesus Christ, as part of His family, we are defined by who loves us… the One who gave His life for us… the One who welcomes us into the family of God… Jesus Christ. He is the only thing that we should let define us. Because it is His love that transforms our lives.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).”
“We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).”
So where do we find our identity? In Him. We live through Him.
It’s only after Paul established identity….as claimed and adopted as part of God’s family… that he addressed the sin in the Ephesians lives. That’s when he urges them to live differently.
We cannot expect others to live righteously if they don’t understand their identity. We need to point each other to the scriptures to remember who loves us. Then, and only then, can we urge one another to live lives worthy of the calling we have received through that love.
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received (Ephesians 4:1).”
Once Paul has established the Ephesians’ identity firmly in the love of God, he is ready to go after the other stuff. He addresses purity, speech, theft, deception, rage and sexual immorality because the Ephesians now know whose they are.
And when we remember whose we are… that’s when we live differently.
If you are looking for more resources with biblical perspectives on sexual-orientation, check out Hole In My Heart Ministries.