The media regularly reminds us of the dangers of identity theft, which according to the BBC Money Programme is growing at the rate of 500% year on year and is costing the UK economy an estimated £1.7bn a year. Some 6 million people in the UK claim to have been a victim of identity theft. One article I read recently urged me to take various precautions to secure my identity, including shredding all documents containing my personal details – “shred often and shred well” the writer insisted!
In this first newsletter of 2011 I want to draw your attention to a different form of identity theft. I can’t provide any statistics to back up my concerns, I just have a growing feeling that a number of Christians are falling victim to having their sense of identity stolen in a spiritual way. It’s a very real danger, costly too, because losing your identity as a Christian can rob you of the enjoyment of many of the blessings promised to you in Christ.
It’s quite normal now in our culture for people to identify themselves according to their sexual attractions and preferences. A generation ago, it would have been highly unusual for someone to declare openly “I’m gay” or “I’m a lesbian” or “I’m bisexual”, whereas today such a declaration is much more acceptable and commonplace in society.
What concerns me primarily, though, is that a growing number of Christians seem increasingly willing to identify themselves in this way, even though labelling ourselves according to our sexual attractions has no biblical basis at all. In fact the Bible knows nothing of the concept of “sexual orientation” – it only ever speaks about sexual practices, i.e. those which are pleasing to God and those which are not.
If I’m a Christian then my true identity is “in Christ” and “...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Surely part of the “old” that “has gone” is this very worldly idea of identifying myself according to my sexual attractions. If I hold on to the label “gay” or “lesbian”, then implicitly (even at a sub-conscious level) I’m unlikely to feel truly fulfilled or happy unless I’m in a gay or lesbian relationship. Alternatively I may start to measure my growth as a Christian or my faith in God’s power, according to whether or not God changes me and makes me “straight.”
Paul writes to Christians in Galatia, “all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” (perhaps Paul might include in that list today “gay nor straight”?!) “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28). What Paul is saying is that whatever our racial roots or cultural background, whatever our position in society, whatever our God-given sex at birth – none of this takes precedence over or should impact on our true identity which is “in Christ.”
So what then are these great blessings that are promised to those of us who are in Christ? Well they are too many to number in a short article, and it’s worth doing a concordance search of the phrase “in Christ”, but here are just a few examples: “In Christ” we have “redemption” (Romans 3:24), “eternal life” (Romans 6:23), “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1), “the grace of God” (1 Corinthians 1:4), “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), “righteousness from God” (Philippians 3:9) and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Let’s not allow ourselves to be robbed of the enjoyment of these wonderful blessings by falsely embracing a gay or lesbian identity. We’re urged by Paul in his letter to the Romans to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). Perhaps part of that mind renewal process should involve ditching any unbiblical labels that risk demeaning your God-given identity in Christ – secure your identity now, shred often and shred well!
This article was written by Jonathan, TfT Director, and was first published in the Spring 2011 newsletter.