Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Who determines what

Who are you?  What are you living for?  The first question may not seem all that tough to most of us.  We'd likely answer with our names, or even add a little about ourselves such as our occupation or position in life.  We might even feel we have really answered this question with these "facts", but I wonder if we really realize exactly who we are?  In fact, most of us really don't tell others who we are - they observe it by how we behave - how we respond to life.  Our actions reveal a great deal more about our true identity than any names, titles, or declared interests ever will!   The second question really gets at the root of this thought - what (or who) are we actually living for?  This question may take us a little longer to answer because it requires some revelation of intention - we have to declare the "intent" behind our actions.  When our actions don't match up with our intent, we might just realize some conflict between the two.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.   (Ephesians 1:11-12 MSG)

Paul puts forth the idea of our identity and our purpose being linked to "who" we are living for more than "what" we are living for.  When our focus is on the "what", it is usually a little self-directed.  "What" is kind a word which some might consider to be a little interrogative - it is used to uncover something which is not immediately evident.  "What" usually refers to objects.  "Who" usually refers to individuals.  So, the difference between the two lies not in the "uncovering" effect of the answer, but in the object of one's life.  Paul points out the "object" of our lives - both our identity and our activity - should be Christ.  Anything less is living far below the place God intended for us from the beginning of time.  It goes against the plans he has been working out for and in us.

The design God has for us, in Christ Jesus, is for glorious living.  "Who" we are often is a result of a multitude of past and present activities.  We are born as the child of two parents - this describes some of the "who" - it declares our lineage.  When we come to Christ, we still might bear the "surname" of our father, but we take on a new identity - we come into a different lineage.  "Who" is more than just our lineage, though.  It is the result of the subsequent actions in our life since birth - things like where we were raised, what we were exposed to in school, where we hung out in our spare time, etc.  These "activities" all influence the "who" people see.  For example, if I particularly like sports and find it enjoyable to hang out with others who also like the pastime, I might begin to reflect a little bit of this "sport" in my life.  I will talk the stats of the game, wear the team's colors on game day, and even pursue the rigorous preparation for the game by actually participating in some activities I might not otherwise engage in.  In time, I take on some of the "sport" in my life - I become known or identifiable as an athlete.

The same is true in our spiritual lives - the more we engage in (participate fully in) the activities of our new "family", we will take on the character of this new lineage.  If you don't believe this possible, then you only need to look as far as the family in your community who adopted a child from another country (a totally different background).  As that adopted child is exposed to the "new" family, they take on the traits of that family.  Little by little, they become "like" the family they are engrafted into.  They don't lose their former identity totally, as they still bear the natural lineage of being born to a particular father and mother in that particular country.  What they do lose is their "tie" with their past - it matters a little less to them as they experience the love and safety of their "new" family.

When God takes us into his family, we don't immediately forget the "old lineage" of our past lives.  What we experience is the discovery of a new way of living which is focused more on the "who" rather than the "what".  The old life is focused on the "what" - "what" others did to us, "what" we did to ourselves, "what" we should have done, etc.  The new life is focused squarely on "who" - "who" we are in Christ Jesus, "who" we are becoming by his power and grace, "who" we are purposed to be from the beginning of time.  So, you see, the "who" is really the question which answers the "what" in our lives!  Just sayin!