We talked yesterday about credentials, about how we define ourselves by what we do, by our grades or jobs or shoes or…you get the idea. Think about this: you meet someone and get into a conversation. Inevitably, as you try to give an impression of who you are to your new friend, you tell them what you do. This is normal, since to withhold what you do would be really weird, but in subtle ways we define ourselves with this. We define ourselves by what we do and how we look: our clothes and hair and shoes, our words and interests and vocations. Or think of the statement, “I am _____” and fill in the blank. What comes up? A husband or wife? A brother or sister? An insurance agent or writer or teacher or homemaker or student?

Does ‘lover of God’ make the cut?

As Paul begins his letter to the Philippians he introduces himself: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus… He looks more deeply at this in the 3rd chapter, which we read and discussed yesterday as a community. He mentioned the ‘credentials’ that we hold onto: the husband and teacher and nice shoes credentials. And he says they are rubbish compared to his relationship with Jesus, compared to knowing Christ and experiencing him — his power and even his sufferings. He writes that his relationship with Jesus makes everything — everything — else pale and become secondary. His identity was his relationship with Jesus. This was almost completely how he defined himself. (Note: I say almost so we remember that, as much of an example as Paul was, he was not God himself in the form of Jesus: as a human he had shortcomings like us.)

The questions that I ask myself today: How do I define myself in this way? How do I take away the identity that I’ve carried for a long time and replace it with a new identity: Loved by God and Lover of God? I know that these other identities I carry, these brother and writer and student identities will eventually show themselves as empty. That is, I will fail in what I do, or relationships will go through periods of distance, or my fancy shoes will become very shallow and worthless one day. How do I redefine myself as a follower of Christ, one who knows Him and is known by Him? How does everything else become rubbish?