Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest author Dave Hernandez.
Nobody likes persecutions, trials and tribulations, but we all have to face them in one form or another. Afflictions come in various forms, but none hurt more than when you become the object of a person’s or people’s wrath.
Jesus was accustomed to persecutions and emotionally ready for them. He knew Judas would betray him. He was prepared for what was coming and makes a powerful statement: “No one has taken it (my life) away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative (John 10:18)”. Jesus is saying, “nobody will do anything to me without my permission – I’m in control of who I am and every aspect of my life!”
Why could Jesus say that? Without a doubt, Jesus had an unshakeable understanding of identity (“I know who I am!”) coupled with a firm grasp of purpose (“I know what I am here for!”). He had total authority over his life. Therefore, people could only access him and do things to him with his permission: including betrayal and crucifixion.
I believe identity is the great treasure Jesus talks about in his parables, it’s “that which was lost”; the ‘salt’ that seasons the world; the word of truth that sanctifies us (we are all sanctified into our own sense of identity); it’s the gem we recover in Christ. We need to disciple our people, our children and the nations of the world into the recovery of their God-given identities!
The following thoughts are lessons and observations I’ve gathered about identity:
1.Everybody seeks identity! We either seek it through ‘self-elevation’ (the tree of knowledge of good and evil), which leads to jealousies, conflict, wars and death, OR we find it through ‘self-emptying’, which leads to inner peace, honour, love and life (tree of life). ‘Self-elevation’ is never satisfied; never finds peace; and never produces identity. Instead it produces ‘pseudo’ or ‘false-identities’ based on ‘doing’, ‘self-preservation’ and ‘self-promotion’. ‘Self-emptying’ leads to a true sense of identity and allows us to operate from a place of peace, never under threat nor coercion. True Identity gives everybody around you the freedom to be: to operate from their “I AM”. A person who possesses this sense of identity enjoys deep inner peace and harmony.
2. I get my sense of Identity from Christ. Imitating him and making him the object of my affections and desires is healthy. There’s enough of Christ for all of us to peacefully find our true selves! That’s great news!
3. A real sense of Identity is the only way one can escape the mimetic (need to mimic/imitate what everybody else wants and is doing) pressures of ‘fallen’ human nature. It’s simple to understand why: If I am seeking identity through ‘self-elevation’, I will do so by desiring to possess what others have. If I possess ‘identity’ I am set free from the need to ‘take’ what belongs to others; including doing what everybody else is doing.
4. People who possess a strong sense of identity are at peace with themselves and are well positioned to broker peace in their respective worlds when conflicts arise. People with little or no sense of identity have little or no inner peace, which leads to an inability to create and sustain peace.
5. Conflict will always begin with people who lack a sense of identity. And, of course, conflicts are fuelled by insecure (‘identity-less’) people responding to ‘identity-less’ opponents, all seeking to affirm their ‘pseudo-identities’. A person who is well established in their own identity will know how to put the fire out, or at least to walk away from the conflict.
6. Identity is a treasure of immense value; it is greatly sought after by all. It’s probably the greatest possession of all: well above wealth and power. The person who possesses identity, in a community of individuals who strongly desire but lack identity, will become the object of persecution. That’s inevitable. The ‘crowd’ will be jealous of your treasure. They will want to ‘pull’ you down, and if unsuccessful they’ll try to discredit you.
7. The person who feels secure in his or her identity will walk away from ‘persecution’ unharmed. Why? Because their sense of identity is not affirmed by others! It is a gift they’ve discovered in themselves as offered to them by the One who created them in the first place. I find the sense of who “I AM” in the “Great I AM!”
8. Healthy families, communities and organisations will value building up people into their identities above every other aspect of their mission.
I believe that Jesus’ Beatitudes are about the blessings of discovering our true identities!
Here’s my ‘paraphrased’ version of Matthew 5:3-11. Compare it with your preferred version of the Bible. I hope you’ll see it.
3″When you’re at the end of your ‘self-elevating’ way of living, God’s ‘self-emptying’ rule will inevitably unveil to you your God-given identity!
4″When you’ve removed, thrown out and grieved the old garments that upheld your ‘pseudo-identities’, you will be blessed with the Father’s comforting embrace, clothing you with Sonship from which you draw your true identity!”
5″You’re blessed when, through the process of ‘self-emptying’, you embrace your true identity; that’s how you come into your inheritance.
6″Your righteous identity is in Jesus and his Abba, hunger and thirst to commune with them and you’ll be satisfied in all your desires!”
7″It’s from a place of true identity that compassion and mercy will flow because all your emotional needs have been satisfied.”
8″When you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right, your true identity will become self-evident. Your perspective on life will change for the better. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
9″You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s because you’ve discovered who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
10″When you’ve found your identity in your commitment to God it will provoke persecution from ‘identity-less’ people. The persecution will drive you even deeper into God’s Kingdom.
11″Count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you… It means that you’ve found your reward in me: you can declare, “I have found who ‘I AM’ in the ‘I AM’ of Life!”
(Some of the above verses have remained largely unchanged from the Message version).
Dave Hernandez is an author, speaker and blogger. He has been a student, preacher and teacher of the Bible for 30 years. Dave is married to Laurence and has two sons. He is a lover of all cultural expressions. This article first appeared on Dave’s personal blog You can access the blog via:http://www.iamsonofgod.net/blog.html and http://iamsonofgod.blogspot.com/
Editor’s Note: Would you like to submit an article for consideration to The Raven Foundation? Find out how in theguidelines of our new section, “Your Voice.” Articles published do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff at the Raven Foundation, but are selected primarily because of the way they enhance the conversation around mimetic theory.