There is a great temptation to find our identity in what we do, not who we are. We are conditioned to do it nearly automatically, as if it’s just second nature. We tie our identity to our jobs or our majors. Some people tie their identity to their sexuality. Others find their identity in their physical or intellectual abilities. Some people even find their identity in ministry, in the things they do for God. That was a big factor in my own story of leaving the Catholic Church—which is a separate subject in itself. Finally others find their identity in what they have done or have had done to them. They can’t let go of past sins, addictions or wounds.
Knowing your true identity can change your life.
Remember the passage from Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus asked the apostles who the crowds said he was?
The apostles tell him, “They think you’re a prophet. You’re a good teacher.”
Isn’t that how much of the world still sees Jesus? If I were to ask you, what do other people say about Jesus, isn’t this close to what you would say? He was a good man, a moral teacher or guide, a prophet, a religious leader. Some might even say “Jesus is the Answer.” But here we see that Jesus isn’t really the answer, he’s the question.
WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
Jesus brings it home. He cuts to the chase. No more dodging behind what others think or say. Jesus puts the question of himself to the apostles – and he puts it to each of us. How we answer that question literally makes all the difference in the world. How we answer that question unlocks the mystery of our identity and allows us to see our true selves, or it keeps us in darkness and doubt.
Peter answered. By faith he recognized that Jesus wasn’t merely just some good guy—he is God in the flesh. That answer changed Peter and it opened to him the reality of who he really was and who he was called to be. This was such a radical encounter that it even resulted in Peter’s name and destiny being changed. No more was he Simon, the fisherman. Now he was Peter, the rock.
Each and every one of us is faced with that same question from Jesus: Who do you say that I am?
So as you think about your answer to Jesus’ question I have another question that may be just as important.
WHO DOES GOD SAY THAT YOU ARE?
Scripture tells us that God knew us before we were born, that he knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, that before we even came into existence he loved us and called us to be his.
He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our innermost thoughts. He sees all that we do. He has numbered the hairs on our head. He knows our true identity, and that identity is rooted in his love for us.
Each and every one of us is so deeply loved and valued by God that he would rather become a baby born in a smelly stable, be raised in poverty, submit to being whipped, beaten, spat on, stripped naked and nailed to a cross rather than risk spending eternity without you, without me.
But wait, there’s more! Not only did he become man, suffer and die, he takes on the form of a piece of bread so that we can consume him, so our bodies can be united with him.
We are loved. We are accepted. We are adopted into God’s family. We are forgiven. We are chosen. We are his children. You are the child of the Great King. That is your identity. That is your reality. That is your destiny.
When we listen to the lies told to us by the world or the enemy we forget who we are. We start to believe the lies whispered to us. We doubt the good things God has for us. We doubt his love for us.
Each of comes with own baggage. We have our own histories of hurts and sins.
Maybe you are struggle with an addiction.
Maybe you think your sins have put you beyond the reach of God’s mercy
Maybe you’ve been hurt by what someone else has done to you
Maybe you just struggle with doubts, doubts about God, doubts about yourself
Jesus wants you to know that you are not what you have done
You are not what has been done to you
You are precious. You are forgiven. You are LOVED.
I’ll close with these words from St. John Paul II, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us.”
Let God love you and let that love become the foundation of your true identity.