Identity Idolatry

I am just going to come right out and say it.

The string has run out on young Evangelicals’ obsession with identity.

More and more, I am convinced that the proliferation of our current pop-theology mantra has duped many in the Church to unwittingly making an idol of self, under the guise of “discovering who I am in Christ.” If this is true, then with each sermon, blog, and “me-laden” worship song absorbed, we may be taking a bite from the same fruit that the serpent wielded in the garden.

“Eat this, and you will be like gods!”

The allure of the accompanying knowledge (of who I am), discovery (of my true self), and gratification (of essentially worshipping myself) is undeniably tempting. But I am hard-pressed to find any scriptural instances of this. The bent of scripture is not “finding myself”—it is finding Christ. In fact, at any point where a character the Bible would bring their own identity into question, the Lord would quickly steer their gaze away from themselves and affix it upon Him—Moses, Gideon, and Jeremiah just to name a few.

Is a healthy understanding of one’s worth, purpose, and dignity wrong? Of course not! Any credible mental health professional will verify the need of this. Yet, the Church has proven to have little restraint from imbibing the ever-tempting spirits of identity. Our vision is blurred. Our words slurred. And we stagger in a proverbial state of inebriation all-too-like a drunk unaware he has had too much. Why then, does the church insist upon obsessively nagging its members to discover their identity?

Because it keeps them coming back.

If you can inflict disease that only you have the cure for… well… then, you have definite job security.

Am I insinuating that today’s clergy are peddling snake potion to the masses? Not at all—at least not intentionally. Yet, the questions church-leaders hoist ironically seem cripple people’s sense of self, rather than solidify it. If observations are true, then we are actually inducing identity-crisis’ within people. Just examine the implications within the phrases orbiting the realm of identity that we mindlessly ask and say… Have you discovered God’s will for your life? Have you found your calling? Have you uncovered your purpose in life?—as if it were somehow lost!

What does this say about our view of God? The inference of these questions, and others like them, imply that God intimately makes us while knowing that understanding our identity as it pertains to our purpose is the only way to have peace, joy, and contentment within life, and then He hides it (identity, purpose, call—whatever you want to call it) while objectively watching us fumble in the dark trying to find it.

And church-leaders are undoubtedly to blame for this. We have conditioned young Christians to have a predisposition to perpetually seek to find themselves—even though they already have.

So where then do we go from here?

We need a shift in the questions we ask ourselves and our people each day.

The question of whowho am I?—dominates the identity-obsessed culture of Evangelicalism. We need to refrain using who-based questions. A mentor of mine urges his people to instead ask why—why am I here? Why deals more with destiny—yet, in my opinion, is still shackled to the confines of an unhealthy obsession with identity. Why-questioning still stops short of the real questions we ought to be asking—what and to whom.

To whom has God brought into my path today and what do I have at my disposal to bring the goodness of God into their life?

The questions of what and to whom do not ignore the reality that exists in the value and purpose of self—yet, rightly places our gaze upon God almighty and His purposes—where it has belonged all along.

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