My daughter and I experienced encounters with others recently that presented challenges to both our identity and joy. Often, I unconsciously interpret the unkindness of others as a reflection of my worth, forgetting that my value as a human being is determined by a God who loves me and was willing to give up His life for me—not by someone who sees with earth-bound eyes and perceives with human judgment.
Some “religious” or legalistic interpretations of Christianity also communicate messages about a person’s worth based on his or her adherence to rules and interpretations of “laws”—good when you follow their formula for salvation (yet ignoring the place where sin resides within each person), bad when one doesn’t follow the stipulated rituals (traditions, practices, or rites).
Besides man-made religion or humanity’s perception of what a Christian is or should be, society is a demanding, tyrannical factor in conveying what is acceptable (or unacceptable) for approval and valuation of personal worth. The car you drive, where you live or work, the clothes you wear have become more simplistic standards for judgment (though many still look with a critical eye at those who have less). Christians who seek to honor God, who are devoted to knowing Him and studying His Word are nowadays deemed uncaring and intolerant. Sadly, many bow to the pressure of criticisms and judgments of this world’s culture, while disregarding or disbelieving the Scriptures and the judgments of God.
Compromise. It makes life on earth more tolerable, more acceptable in a society where the tide of opinion, instead of the Word of God, determines what is right and wrong, what is justice or what is injustice. And when we say that abortion is murder and God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, we put targets on our backs for arrows of hatred generated, first and foremost, by Satan.
But we often forget! —we forget that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12). And we also forget Jesus’ command, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28)—sometimes it is difficult to hear, or remember, those words, particularly when the lies and manipulations of the enemy, the twisting of truth and rejection of scripture, dominate the news and even some of our relationships.
There is an interesting story in the Old Testament when the leaders of Israel came to Samuel the prophet and they didn’t like how their nation was being run and they had some legitimate concerns about the leadership. They told Samuel, “Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” This was God’s response to the prophet’s prayer, “And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:5, 7).
The Israelites, God’s chosen people, thought the answer for their problems was in being like other people, like other nations; seeking God and trusting Him did not appear to be a consideration for solving the issues involving the leadership of their nation—they wanted to blend in, to be acceptable within the culture of their day.
The Holy Spirit instructed the Corinthian church, through the apostle Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with unrighteousness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God… ‘Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord…and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty’” (1 Corinthians 6:14-16).
For the sake of “getting along” or maintaining peace within the culture, many are sacrificing peace with God—either out of ignorance or the rejection of the His Word!
Yet God, our Father, identifies us as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once [we] were not a people, but now [we] are God’s people; once [we] had not received mercy, but now [we] have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are sons and daughters of God, we are His people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; yet it is not at all difficult to become intimidated or threatened by a culture that does not know nor understand the righteousness, the love, or the justice of God. Fueling our insecurities and the questions that lurk deep within us about our identities in God is an enemy who seeks to undermine our rightful position in Jesus and threaten our commitment to serve Him with our whole hearts.
I admit that frequently I want to defend myself and God’s church against the verbal and written attacks claiming that Christians are intolerant and hateful. I also recognize that the “accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) is fueling the tide of opinion against Christians, and that those who reject God will reject us—and they will not be able to hear truth. It is important for us to live and speak with integrity, to live as His children, with distinction as God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, within a twisted culture.
James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” counsels, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 1:1, 4:7-8).
As Christians, we are who God says we are, not who the world thinks we are or how society seeks to define us. We will become increasing secure in our God-given identity as we draw closer to Him!