Identity Theft edited by Melissa Kruger
Completely Transformed in Christ
Where I live is often called a “gateway to Australia”, because its where many immigrants, particularly refugees, first live when they arrive here. And when you look around you can see where people have come from over the past 50 years. We have Ukranian and Russian churches along with Croatian, German-Austrian and Italian clubs from those who arrived after WWII. There are South American butchers and pastry shops and even a Spanish radio station set up by those who fled conflict in El Salvador and Chile in the 1970s. They were followed by many Vietnamese who have settled and opened restaurants and grocers; and more recently the place has gained an Iraqi and Syrian flavour. 76% of people speak a language other than English at home, compared with the state average of 27%*. It’s a fascinating place to live, where I learn new things about other cultures and backgrounds all the time.
When I meet people, I’m often asked questions like “where are you from?” “when did you come here?” and “are you a real Australian?”. It’s helped me notice that many who are making Australia their new home are faced with lots of questions about their identity. “Who am I?” “What matters to me?” “What will I hold on to from my country and how “Australian” will I become?” These questions are even more prevalent in their children and grandchildren’s lives, especially those who haven’t lived in their countries of origin. Sadly it can lead to a lot of tension within families and communities as they work out what their new identities look like. For those who are Christians, this also means working out what parts of their identity are cultural and what parts are biblical. These are traditions or ways of thinking do we have ingrained in us, where the lines have become blurred between those that are things of God and those that aren’t.
How would the people in your area describe their identity? And how would you describe your own identity? You may not have moved countries or had as large an upheaval as others, but changes in our age or circumstances of family structures influence our identity too. Does your identity always reflect the things of God? Are there things you are tempted to trust in that rob you of security in your identity in Christ?
Reading Identity Theft, edited by Melissa Kruger, has helped me think about this afresh. Each of the authors confronts a common “identity theft”, something that might sound true or attractive, but actually isn’t biblical. And then they share what God’s word says, and how it speaks to our “identity truth” in Jesus.
For example, in her chapter “Worshiper: Shining Brightly in the Darkness”, Lindsey Carlson addresses the temptation we feel to want to build a name for ourselves, to receive admiration and respect for our own gifts or abilities. But this takes us away from the truth that we have been made to worship and glorify our heavenly father, who not only created us but has redeemed us in Christ Jesus. We should seek for his name to be given all the glory and honour, not ourselves. Holding on to this “identity truth” frees us up to proclaim the gospel as we aim to selflessly love others.
One of the helpful things about Identity Theft is that it often considers statements that seem to be true at first, but when you unpack it further are actually not biblical. Megan Hill does this in her chapter on being a “Member: Connected to the Church”, as she critiques the popular idea in our society that because my relationship with God is personal, I don’t have a responsibility to be a serving member of a local church since I can work out how to follow him myself. Yes, individually we are saved by the blood of Jesus and can rejoice that our name is written in his book, but our relationship with God isn’t only personal, we’re also brought into God’s family and that’s meant to be a part of our present identity just as it will be part of our future identity when we gather around the throne of Jesus (Revelation 21). This means that part of living out our identity in Christ is seen in how we join and participate in our local church. We’re going to be thinking more about this at EQUIP19, as we look at how the Bible speaks about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14. That’s one of the parts of the Bible this chapter of Identity Theft includes in its discussion questions, so I found it helpful to read and ponder in preparing for EQUIP next month.
I also loved how the book finishes, with the reminder that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven. That’s what many people who live nearby to me so desperately need to hear. But it’s also what I need to remember too. We can be tempted to put all our security into the things of this world, with comfort and safety our top priorities. In this chapter, Jen Pollock Michel encourages us to see the whole Bible story, from garden to new Jerusalem, and how that affects our understanding of where our true citizenship lies. We both look back with longing and look forward with anticipation, to the beautiful picture of no more suffering or persecution or uncertainty and being welcomed home by our gracious father.
Identity Theft is an easy read, well suited to reading with friends or a sister in Christ to help us think about how we cling to the truth of the gospel better and remember how our identity is completely transformed in Christ.
* Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census, Fairfield LGA Demographics
Meet Sarah Cameron
I love to read, but don’t get much time to at the moment with 3 little kids. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where my husband Gus is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.