The concept of identity is frequently explored academically—for the last few years HSC English has had a topic on 'belonging'. At university a large portion of my social studies focussed on how culture, society, and different beliefs create a sense of community and belonging for those involved.
All this is true—as an Australian there are certain cultural norms my social group takes part in to make me feel like I belong: Australia Day barbeques listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown; South Coast surf trips with mates; or wearing green and gold at an Australia vs. England one day cricket match.
I can't help but feel very much part of this wonderful nation of Australia. I am an Australian and I'm proud of it!
For a long time I understood my identity to come from two places: my geographic location and my occupation. From the occupational perspective I am a guitar teacher.
So naturally, when I tried to figure out 'who I am' I logically answered: 'I am an Australian, and I'm a guitar teacher'. That is who I am. These were the things by which I can give myself a place in the world.
Turned upside down
Last year my understanding of identity was turned upside down. I was listening to the pastor at my church speak on what he termed an 'identity crisis in the Church'.
He explained that for too long we, as believers, have taken our identity by conventional methods of locale and occupation. The reality is this: we are not who we think we are; we are who God says we are.
Your job does not make you who you are; your job is merely what you do. Who you are, is a child of the Most High God. No longer am I 'just' a guitar teacher. The book of Romans tells me I am a son of God, who teaches guitar.
You are a not a builder. According to the book of Corinthians you are a new creature in Christ, and you happen to build houses. You are not a project manager—you are a joint heir with Christ, and you work to make sure that road will be built on time and on budget.
We don't get our identity from what we do: identity comes from who God says we are.
This creates attitudinal change
When we understand our identity comes from God, then our attitude towards our occupation shifts. No longer are you a CEO—you are an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, who has a CEO position so that you may be a demonstration of the power of the Kingdom in your area of influence. This shift in identity affects our day-to-day life.
You no longer go into your workplace to do just your job as an electrician; rather you go in to make that place reflect the Kingdom of Heaven—and wiring houses is the means of you getting into that particular place with a particular group of people.
When someone gets their identity from God, they can no longer say that they are too insignificant to be of any real use to Him. Their job is the place unique to them where they can demonstrate Kingdom identity. It doesn't matter what their job is—no matter how humble it may be, because that is not where they get their sense of worth and self-esteem.
Having one's identity in Christ is completely freeing and fulfilling.
What you do is not who you are; you are who God says you are—and this is much better than anything you can do.
Samuel James is a Media Communication graduate based in Wollongong.
Samuel James' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/samuel-james.html