The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

This week I discovered that I was a victim of identity fraud. No one was impersonating me – an old bald man wearing a clerical collar with an Australian accent 😉 – but apparently I had moved to Salford and had contacted the credit card company on a number of occasions. So when the credit card stopped working and I rang to enquire we had this initial ‘little dance’ where the credit card company didn’t know whether I was genuine and I didn’t know whether the person on the end of the phone was legitimate even though I had rung the phone number on the card. It has all been sorted – the credit card company had put a block on my card because they were suspicious of ‘my’ earlier contact with them – which I had not done – and unless I have been properly defrauded this time – ah, how cynical I am! 😉 – hopefully all is sorted except that I have now more security to go through for the next few months. Ah what fun in today’s world!

What intrigued me about the whole experience was the credit card company’s seriousness about someone stealing my identity. (And I appreciate the diligence!) But, in truth, I am more than my home address. In fact I am more than all identifying features or markers which describe an aspect of me. What you say about me might be true but I am more than your description or classification. Whatever my age, I might be a ‘young’ or ‘old’ version of that age. I remember it being quite a significant thing for me to seek a second nationality even though the reason was largely pragmatic because I regarded it as having further responsibilities. Politics, sporting allegiances, educational qualifications, occupation, and more all shape my identity. Should I have a major medical condition then experience will suggest that, at some point, I may have to assert that I am more than a medical label! My identity is also different – and yet I am the same person – to those closest to me in my family – husband, father, grandfather, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, and the in-laws. There is a lot of talk about sexual identity, at the moment, so much so that there are ‘wars’ happening. Often it is about gender or sexuality and the debates occur about biological determinism and personal declarations and how the individual and the community then interact.

Is my identity a given or what I say it is? The answer has to be both. I didn’t choose my name or the body I have (well, it’s condition is up to me! 😉) or some significant relationships and yet I do choose specific identities when I married, when I was ordained, when I sought dual citizenship, which definitely shape my behaviour. 

So who am I? Who are we?

In terms of my sense of self, my well being, the ‘I’ when I speak or write or do something; in terms of my foundation, the ground on which I stand, the final identity when all others are not important or relevant yes, I think, this is firstly something objective – given to me – and then something accepted. For Christians, we exist in relation to Jesus. Jesus died for all of me. I am someone whom God loves and has rescued. God’s actions determine my identity – a forgiven sinner, a child of God, a disciple of Jesus – who lives this identity in all my other identities. It’s not a matter of us bringing our identities to Jesus and saying ‘you have to accept me as I say I am’ because Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves and he does love us! The identity of a disciple of Jesus is about growing in ‘the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18) because only with Jesus can we have the deepest and best truth of all, the foundational identity that defines and shapes and guides us – that I am loved by God. (This is why Baptism is so central and important!) And Jesus gives us the best life to live amid all our identities and so we seek to follow him!