When I visit someone in the hospital I have this identification badge that I wear that shows that I am “Clergy”. In our society there are various badges being worn. It might identify a person’s occupation, or politics, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or…well the list goes on.
In a 1C letter to a group of churches in present-day Turkey, Paul writes this about identification:
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20-21 NIV)
Paul is making it clear that all the other id badges he once wore, some with great pride, have been replaced with one fundamental identification founded in Christ. How he conducts himself in his earthly affairs has been transformed by that core identity. No longer is he a Jew, who now believes in Jesus. Nope. That has it backwards. He is now a Christ-ian, who was a Jew.
Changing our core identity is radical business. It is God’s business. It is the result of God’s merciful grace awakening faith and launching a miraculous makeover from the inside out.
This re-creating work that God has begun in us will last our earthly lives. There are moments where I am acting out of an old identity. Usually an identity that provides me reasons (false but enticing) why I should have my own way, or go first or be exempt from doing what is right. But the Spirit of Christ shines a spotlight on that and invites me to repent and to re-engage with becoming who God is redeeming me to be.
I rejoice that God is merciful and does not treat me according to what I deserve. And as a Christ-ian I too must extend mercy to a brother or sister, who like me, act out of their old identities. Mercy is never an affirmation of the wrong, it is always an affirmation of the person God is making whole and holy.
Are there certain identity badges that make it hard for you to extend God’s mercy?