We Know Who We Are
Understanding our identities as believers.
“See what great love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a)
It’s the start of the 2015 NFL playoff season, and the Arizona Cardinals are just three wins away from making Super Bowl history. Behind the scenes, cameras are rolling as NFL Films records a first of its kind look at the inside world of professional football for its new series All or Nothing.
After a brutal loss to the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the regular season, the Cardinals must make a quick pivot to start strong in the playoffs. Prior to the first game against the Green Bay Packers, cameras capture quarterback Carson Palmer in a private meeting giving an inspiring speech to his team. “Let’s not forget who we are,” he says. “We know who we are.”
The wording Palmer uses isn’t by mistake. Reminding people who they are, the heritage of where they’ve been and what they stand for, impacts their behaviors. And ultimately Palmer’s team responds to his speech on identity by winning the first game of the 2015 playoff season in overtime with a score of 26-20.
The theme of identity is one that unites, inspires and motivates us — Christians and non-Christians alike. But identities that once were defined by the communities we grew up in, the schools we attended, and traditions passed on from one generation to the next, have now shifted into identities that are ever-changing, continuously shaped and reshaped by the societal trends of the day.
In the midst of this tumultuous shift, it’s easy for Christians to forget who we are as defined by the relationship we have with our heavenly father.
Our identity rests in an unchanging God who adopted us into his family through the work of Christ on the cross. This is a truth that not only stands in contrast with the untethered identity trends of today, but also in contrast with the blood-bound identity trends that Christ grew up within.
No matter the era Christians have existed in, the Bible offers us a radically counter-cultural definition of exactly who we are within God’s story. When we read 1 John 3, not only can we stand in amazement that God would forgive sinners like us, but also in amazement that he takes it one step further, calling us his children. As cultural orphans, we now have a home.
The Heidelberg Catechism explains it this way when it asks us what is our only comfort in life and in death: “That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The words we read in 1 John 3 gives us a sense of stability in a world riddled with unstable teachings about who we are and what we deserve. As one commentator writes, “False teaching often promises some new insight or privilege. John says the privilege of being God’s child trumps anything else false teachers have to offer.”
Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we’re already loved. In the words of one contemporary worship song: We’re already chosen. We know who we are. We know what he’s spoken. We can rest in the assurance that we are loved by our heavenly father and called with a purpose to do good works.
Thanks to our secured identities in Christ, we can be free to live our lives as he would — consistently being about our father’s business and never wavering in fulfilling his mission to make disciples. “For we are his workmanship,” it says in Ephesians 2:10, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Dominique McKay is a Women's Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C.