Are We Followers of Christ First?

A few months ago, before the current double crises, I had the opportunity to watch the 2019 Christian movie, “Overcomer.”  You may have seen it.  It’s certainly worth watching if you haven’t as its premise is especially pertinent at the moment.  Truthfully, it’s always a pertinent premise.

We live in an age of Identity – identity politics, identity lifestyles, identity think.  And far too many Christians are getting caught up in it.  We are identifying along world-driven lines into loudly-declared camps: person of color/black or white, business owner or worker, liberal or conservative, left or right, pro-lockdown or anti, woke or not, guilty or innocent by birthright. The list is becoming endless and divisions between those of us who call ourselves Christians grow wider each day as do the arguments and the “unfriending.”

The problem is, we are forgetting who we are first and most importantly who we follow.  This is why the movie “Overcomer” comes to mind.  In the story, a main character is asked, “Who are you?” He answers that he’s a basketball coach and a history teacher. Then a husband and a father.  The same question continues to be asked until he reaches the essence of who he is as he is stripped bare of all worldly trappings.  He finally states, “A Christian.”  His questioner points out that he didn’t say that first, so it wasn’t what he really felt first.

Is that where we are right now?  Are we some career, some role, some identity or other before being Christians?  Do we identify first with the words of truth and life God has given us before any teaching, club or organization of men?  Who are we if we are stripped bare like a deciduous tree in autumn or like Job in the Bible?  If we aren’t doctors or electricians, lawyers or warehouse staff; business owners or employees; leaders or citizens; ministers or layman; fathers or mothers; conservatives or liberals?

If we follow in the ways of Jesus Christ, if He is our example, our true identity cannot exist in being black or white, descendants of slaves or oppressors, liberal or conservative, of one nationality or another, of one political party or another, or of one ideology or another.  It cannot exist in whether we are married or single, are parents or not, or in what kind of job we do.

Otherwise, we completely deny Gal 3:27-28 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus…”

We must be ardent followers of Christ, in other words, Christians first.  It’s telling that when Jesus called the original twelve disciples, He asked them to leave what they were doing and follow Him. That doesn’t mean that those who were fishermen never fished again.  Clearly they did at least a few times more, but it was no longer who they were.  The Apostle Paul continued making tents at least part of the time during his travels, and he remained very aware of his background as a Pharisee, but these aspects of his life were no longer his true calling. He identified with Jesus Christ above everything else.

We must live that example, too.  Not follow the well-intentioned, but critically flawed examples of others. Do we seriously consider the life God has asked us to live with love for our fellow man as we look to the Kingdom of God?  Yes, we must stand for truth and righteousness. For right above wrong.  But within that, we must also be careful we aren’t taking on the world’s definitions of those. We must look to God’s Word for definitions and identity.  And we must: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom 12:17-18 NKJV).

This is part of our calling.  This is who we are meant to be. Not the world’s versions of what makes up identity.

“…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).

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