Christians struggle with issues of identity and self-worth. Thankfully, there’s a three-step process for re-centering our identity on Christ.
As a lecturer for Houston Baptist University’s Honors College, I have the privilege of shepherding each new freshman class through the Iliad and Odyssey. In the former epic, Achilles, the greatest soldier in the history of Western literature, suffers something of an existential identity crisis as he questions who he is, what his purpose is, and whether life has any meaning. In the end, he makes peace with himself and his community, but only by returning to the narrow parameters that define the good life, the good man, and the good society in the microcosm of the epic.
Within the context of the Iliad, the resolution is both powerful and satisfying, but it does not resolve the deeper question that all people must answer: not “How do I know I have value as a Greek warrior living in the Mycenaean Bronze Age?” but “How do I know I have intrinsic value apart from my profession, my gifts, or my family relations?” After all, we can lose our jobs, become physically incapable of using our gifts, and watch helplessly as those we love are carried off by violence, disease, or inescapable old age.
Surely, an identity that rests solely upon skills, awards, or people that can be suddenly and irrevocably taken away is tenuous at best. There must be a more stable foundation on which to build. Thankfully, the Christian gospel provides just such an unshakable foundation: that the God who created us thought us of such value that he not only sent his Son to die for us but sent him at the very moment when we were the most rebellious and unlovable (Rom. 5:8).
Given this great declaration of God’s unconditional love and our inestimable value, one might think that Christians would not struggle with issues of identity …
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