Who Am I?

As a Christian, who am I? As Christians, who are we?

Lots of different answers are given to this one, many of which we don’t speak out loud, but simple assume.

Other answers are spoken out loud, at times, but perhaps they do not seep in deeply enough to come to the point of “unspoken assumption,” a bedrock presupposition that drives our lives without our knowing it.

A storied theology that places the story of the cross at the center of our story as God’s people should tell us some things about ourselves. We know these things. At least, we know many of them, but too many are allowed to fall away.

The cross is a story that tells us, among other things, that the world is in need of transformation in order to attain to the beauty and perfection that God wants for it.

It’s a story that tells us the way into God’s kingdom is through a self-renunciation, a receipt of forgiveness, a being set free.

But in the process, we discover that there is a beloved “I” who is engaged in this transformation. We are not a despised people who have to become someone else in order to be beloved of God. Instead, we are beloved people who are made more truly ourselves as we come to God in Jesus Christ.

But we don’t believe it.

In the Presbyterian liturgy there is a refrain I have, at times, found myself repeating every week:

Friends, believe the good news of the gospel.

In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!

At this moment, we have denied the economy by which most of us live our lives.

We offer an idea. We put ourselves out there. It is ours. And so when someone disagrees, it crushes us.

We get in a fight with our spouse, our friend, our sister, our brother. We believe that we were right. We feel that to let go of that, to admit that we were wrong, would be death. We have wrapped ourselves into what we have done.

And we’re right.

To admit we’re wrong would be death.

But it’s the death of those whose stories are defined by the cross of Christ–a death that resolves in resurrection.

In that moment, when we must. have. our. own. way. in that moment, we have left aside the fact that our defining narrative is the narrative of the cross. We have forgotten that who we are at the core of our being is not defined by our being right, awesome, powerful, amazing.

But, paradoxically, who we are most truly, the way in which we have found life, is not by clinging to the life we had, but in giving it up. In dying. In asking for forgiveness.

“I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

This is not something that is to be lived out in vague generalities.

Because we are the cross people, we are the forgiveness people: embodying the equally difficult tasks of asking for forgiveness and of extending it to the people around us.

It feels like death to admit when we’re wrong. And, it probably is death, because we are wrapped up in the things we’ve done, the things we’ve said–they are part of our defining narrative.

But a greater narrative provides a greater definition. It is the narrative of the cross that says to all those things I either can’t or won’t or don’t want to turn from: These, too, are forgiven. Yours is a better story.

Thanks be to God.

8 thoughts on “Who Am I?”

  1. Re forgiveness, from ‘A Course in Miracles’
    “Forgiveness is the means by which we will remember. Through forgiveness the thinking of the world is reversed. The forgiven world becomes the gate of heaven, because by its mercy we can at last forgive ourselves. Holding no one prisoner to guilt we become free.

    Tom

  2. Thanks for this, Daniel. Remembering who we are in Christ, instead of seeking identity according to the ways of the kingdoms of this world… I’m reminded how many times Paul spoke of being less, at the end of the procession, counting what he’d gained before as loss and dung, for the sake of following Christ, the higher calling, the better & healing story. Not the more comfortable one, however…

    I used a quote I came across (via an Aussie on Scot’s blog) from Parker Palmer in a sermon last week, because it seemed so appropriate to how we’re called to be reconciled to and love one another in the church: [To be] remembered means to re-member. It means to put the body back together. The opposite of remember is not to forget, but to dis-member. And when we forget where we came from… we have in fact dis-membered something.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. We should be able to say as Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The process by which we are conformed to the image of Christ occurs, in part, through the work of the cross and resurrection in our lives.

    Thomas Kelly, a Quaker missionary and educator wrote, “God, out of the pattern of His own heart, has planted the Cross along the road of holy obedience. And He enacts in the hearts of those He loves the miracle of willingness to welcome suffering and to know it for what it is – the final seal of His gracious love.” Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion, with an introduction by Richard J. Foster and a biographical memoir by Douglas V. Steere (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1941, 1992), 43.

    The only thing I would add to the cross is the resurrection. I have no doubt when people talk about the cross they also mean the resurrection, but I think it is important (theologically and to our own spiritual formation) to to articulate that alongside message of the cross. Our message would not be life changing if it it is limited to “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” I can endure the cross (and can even embrace it) because I know that the end of the cross is the resurrection to new life.

  4. There’s no excuse for this sort of thing. Paul is clear: Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation…

    This is really, really simple. But it isn’t really easy.

    1. Sorry; I should have been clearer. I mean there is no excuse for Christians to stand on their rights, to withhold forgiveness, to hold the positions and take the views that Daniel rightly excoriates. There is no excuse because the example and teachings of Jesus are very clear. I hope that makes sense.

      1. That’s much clearer, thank you, John. :) I didn’t want to jump to the wrong conclusion about what you’d meant, so I thought it advisable to ask! The first sentence seemed antithetical to the scripture you’d quoted, and thus I was befuddled.

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