“Who are you?” the office holding my driver’s license, registration, and proof and insurance asked.
Over ten years ago, a friend and I drove to Augusta, Georgia to get out and go to a movie when the Lexington County Sheriff Department felt it needed to search my car and my identity. The officers would eventually have me do an entire field sobriety test but before the real fun began, they wanted to know the basics. My Full Name. My Address. My Birthday. They wanted to know if what I said about myself matched up with what the State of South Carolina said about me (I was a SC Resident/Driver at the time).
Eventually, an officer would straighten out the situation and let me leave, but when I left that night, I didn’t receive a mug shot or a citation; rather I took home a story I’d never forget and a better understanding of my identity.
- Our Past Can Shape Our Identity – Our mistakes, as well as our right actions and accomplishments, can shape who we become, how others see us, or how we see ourselves.
- Our Present Situation Can Shape Our Identity – Our current attributes, qualities, professions, and possessions play a shaping role in how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others.
- Opinions Can Shape Our Identity – Regardless of accuracy, spectators play a shaping role in how we are seen and how we see ourselves.
What do all three of these have in common? Each one is temporal and can be positive or negative. But isn’t that the fabric of life? We live in a world with change and opposites everywhere: Day/Night, Hot/Cold, Good/Evil – this list could go on for a while.
If there was anyone in the Bible who possessed an identity crisis, it was Saul/Paul of the New Testament. When we first meet Paul, he was the complete opposite of a Christian. He was actually requesting special permission to arrest Christians. Then, in Acts 9:1-19 he has an encounter with Jesus and his life changes forever.
Understandably, we learn from the Book of Acts, the story of the Early Church, that Paul’s conversion was not without side effects. People were skeptical, hesitant, and some were just plain scared of him. It is to people sorta like this that Paul is writing in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. He is explaining the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how it is foundational, or “of first importance.”
Paul believed Jesus was the hope of the world, and a new identity waiting for all who trust, repent and believe Jesus for salvation. He didn’t believe this because someone told him to … he believed it because he had experienced it. It was his story.
Paul uses the change he experienced to better explain to the Corinthians the gospel message and their new identity as followers of Christ. He doesn’t glamorize his old identity, but he didn’t use it to condemn himself either. He says,“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain”(1 Cor.15:10). He understood that his past can inform, motivate, and encourage but only the grace of God should define him.
In a world full of opinions, would consider allowing the most important voice to be the defining voice?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor.5:17)
I pray this helps you grow in your love for Christ, His Church, and His Mission.