identity

i went to lake pointe church yesterday and wes hamilton dropped a little bomb in my mind while making his way through an excellent sermon.  “identity determines behavior”, he said.  i’ve been thinking about it ever since. 

god has a way of orchestrating our lives so the thing he’s teaching is reinforced from several directions.  he’s been teaching me that how i view a person, in relationship to my self, determines my behavior toward them (see: we’re number one, drawing the wrong lines, and inclusion / exclusion).  and how i view that person is determined by two things – the group i see them in and the group where i see myself.  our identities, in other words.

wes’s statement brought this full circle.  a person’s identity is, at the root, defined by their group.  the relationship of our group to their group determines the responsibility i feel toward them.  the responsibility i feel tells me the attitude and behavior required.  identity determines behavior.

misbehavior from god’s perspective – the only perspective that truly matters – comes from misidentifying groups; ours and theirs.  jesus succinctly defined only two groups of other: “you shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’   we have a special relationship with god our creator, savior, and lord.  everyone else is in the same boat: sinners who need god.  jesus followed up with the good samaritan parable to underscore the insignificance of racial and religious boundaries.

we slice and dice humanity in dozens of ways; culture, politics, gender, race, religion, language, social, economic, and interest groups.  a myriad of symbols help us categorize people; the clothes they wear, how they speak, the car they drive, where they live, what they eat.  sometimes a person would seem to be in our group, but is stigmatized by one trait: “he’s gay”, “she’s divorced”, “he’s an ex-con”. 

but god doesn’t allow for any grouping to diminish our responsibility toward another.  “…as yourself” he said.  it seems pretty simple.  now i get to spend the rest of my life trying to do it.

[edit] i was reading galatians 3 (yes, again) and saw this and had to add it since it fits so perfectly:

for you are all sons of god through faith in christ jesus. for all of you who were baptized into christ have clothed yourselves with christ. there is neither jew nor greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in christ jesus. and if you belong to christ, then you are abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

what you are: sons of god, one in christ (unified), abraham’s descendants, heirs of god’s promise
what you aren’t: jew nor greek (identified ethnically), slave nor free (identified by economic or employment status), male nor female (identified by gender)

who you are determines what you do.  identify determines behavior.

[end edit]

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