Perhaps it’s something obvious. A physical stamp, like the lettering that runs through a stick of rock. A shock of flame-red hair. A birth-mark. The way you tilt your head. Your laugh. Your funny, loping walk.
Maybe it’s something hidden. Something the cashier at the supermarket can’t spot, and even close friends might miss. An event in your past. Or words that have lodged, deep below your skin. “You’re special.” “You’re a disappointment.” “You’re fat or useless or pretty or smart.”
Maybe it’s something that’s already yours. A car. A reputation. A position in your home or work family – golden boy or black sheep. Or maybe it’s something you’re missing – but long to possess. The partner you don’t yet have. The book you wish you’d written. The dream you wish you’d chased.
What makes you you? Your performance? Your looks? Your history? Your hopes? If freedom comes from Being Yourself, it’s vital we get the answer right. But what if Being Yourself is the problem? What if freedom looks like letting go of yourself – and who you think you ought to be? Funnier. More stylish. More celebrated. What if all this is completely wrong? And what if you only find yourself by losing yourself?
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me… will save it. (Mark 8:35)
There’s a wonderful simplicity here. A promise that speaks hope to us all. But while it’s easy to say “find your identity in Jesus,” what does that actually look like? And how do I do it?
To find out, let’s look again at Mark 8:35 – in particular, the bit that I sneakily left out. Jesus didn’t just promise a true identity to “whoever loses their life for me.” He also added “…and for the gospel.” Our true selves emerge not only as we lose our lives upwards to Jesus, but also outwards in gospel service.
Paul spoke about the same thing to the Christians in Galatia. They wanted a special religious stamp (circumcision) to give them identity. But he reminds them;
in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)
Faith means losing myself in Jesus. Love means losing myself in you. And one must lead to the other.
“Identity in Jesus” is not just a head truth. It’s fleshed out in church community. As I serve others I discover gifts, passions, needs, weaknesses and strengths I never knew I had. By forgetting myself in the cause of the gospel, that’s where I find myself. So if, like me, you find it hard to get your head around “identity in Jesus,” don’t forget His body.