“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. 2 We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.” (Colossians 1:1-2; New Living Translation)
Who are you, really?
Identity issues are front and center in our day, more than any time in living memory. Some people grapple deeply with their sexual identity (straight, gay, transgender, other). Others have more traditional struggles: Who am I? Does anyone care? Do I matter? What gives me value?
For most of us, various elements shape our identity; male/female, husband/wife, father/mother, educated/uneducated, wealthy/poor, worker, homemaker, coach, teacher, volunteer, etc. Each “role” contributes to our identity, and represents another hat that we wear.
As the Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Christians at Colosse, his opening comments relate to identity; his and theirs.
On the one hand, Paul identifies himself as chosen by God to be an apostle (missionary). On the other hand, he identifies the Christians at Colosse as God’s holy people (saints) and faithful brothers and sisters because of Christ. Something quite dramatic had happened to him…and them.
Following Christ is not like taking out membership at the local gym or quilting guild. It makes a profound and fundamental change to everything. Elsewhere, Paul describes this change in dramatic terms: A new creation whereby old things have passed and entirely new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We are no longer who we once were. Our redemption by Christ means that we have an entirely new vocation (calling) and identity. No longer do the usual categories apply in the same way. We are not primarily Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, citizen or refugee, slave or freeman (Colossians 3:11).
Our new identity transcends everything we have experienced before. It doesn’t eliminate everything else, but it relegates it all to a secondary position.
This may be one of the least understood and most poorly appropriated truths in contemporary Christianity. Our first and chief identity now rests as being the beloved people of God and therefore brothers and sisters to each other. Everything else springs from that starting point.
Some think of Christianity as a religious system. Others view it as nothing more than another government survey category. But Paul defines it in radical new ways. Christianity, first and foremost, re-defines our core identity. We are now the people and family of God. Until we embrace this identity deeply, the usual struggles will continue and we’ll treat each other indifferently.
Who are you, really? Christ alone gives us the clarity that changes everything.