2 Corinthians 5:14-17 NRSV
My identity has been on my mind a lot in recent days. Late in March, I found out that someone was using my name and other identifying information to cash fraudulent checks on some of my bank accounts. Unfortunately, I have heard from many people who have had a similar experience. To say that it is unnerving is a gross understatement. To wonder what some nefarious character will do next and wonder when the stolen funds might be returned is a terrifying experience. However, I am thankful that Jennie and I can weather this storm in our lives. While things may be tight for a while, we have enough of a financial cushion and family and friends’ support to make it through.
All the things that go with identity theft have also prompted me to think about how I understand my identity. My name, social security number, driver’s license number, address, email addresses, etc., are all a part of my identity. And they can all be taken and misused. But there are other parts of my identity that cannot be stolen and cannot be used for evil because my identity transcends all those numbers. My identity in its essence resides in my relationship with God, with you, and with all of humanity.
As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, we are bound together with one another and with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In just a few short days, we will celebrate the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death which unites us with believers worldwide and throughout time. As Paul writes, “we are convinced that one dies for all, and therefore all died.” He continues, “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Because I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, my identity is now tied together with his. Paul tells us that because we are followers of the risen Christ, we are new creations. In other words, our identity is not found solely through looking at those earthly identifiers. Instead, who we are at our deepest levels is found in our relationships with God and one another.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I think the same can be true for our identities. When we put all our focus on our “earthly” identity, that can be stolen from us. However, if we realize that our most authentic identity is as children of God and siblings of Christ, we are storing our identities in heaven. And no thief can steal that from us!