Where does identity lead you?

Our identity in Christ supersedes all others.
No allegiance is more important.
This is the basis for our unity in Christ.

In the Gospel of Mark, 1:14-20, we witness Jesus calling four fishermen (at least one of whom was also a disciple of John the Baptist) to become disciples of his. He does this by rooting the call in their identity – “You are fishermen. I will make you fishers of men.”

Our identity in Christ derives from and is rooted in our identity before Christ, with a continuity that bridges the gap., as Paul says, “4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor 5:4). Our transformation is becoming more fully ourselves.

As Paul was writing his early letter to the Corinthians, it was early in his ministry and he believed that Christ would return very soon. This led him to urge people to not try to move from one station in life to another “for the time is short.” (1 Cor 7) Slaves and masters, husbands and wives, whatever your situation, seek to make the most of it. That’s a hard pill to swallow today, because we are so interested in liberation from oppression – as well we should be. If we thought that the world we know were going to end within months, we might set different priorities, as Paul obviously did.

Paul says there is no longer Jew or Gentile, Male or Female, Slave or Free (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). He’s not, of course, speaking literally. Christ does not eliminate these distinctions. He enfolds, encapsulates, eclipses. He takes down “the dividing wall, the hostility” that was rooted in these distinctives. God obviously loves endless variety and complexity, even within the church. Every snowflake and every face and every personality are similarly unique and wondrous. But no longer does our individualism or our group identity become cause or justification for our separation from others, our oppression and rejection of others.

Again, it is important to recall that Paul believed his world was coming to an end shortly: “…in light of the impending crisis…. and the appointed time has grown short…” (1 Cor 7:26, 29) This both energizes and tempers his thoughts on identity. Had he known that we’d still be here 2000 years later waiting for the second coming of Christ, might he have addressed the inequity in relationships, particularly between husbands and wives, masters and servants, differently? We can’t know. We do know that he urged Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother rather than as a slave (Philemon 1:16-17). This may hint at what Paul thought ought to happen more broadly. “Brother in Christ” trumps the identities of “master” and “slave.”

What might this understanding do to our political landscape? Imagine if our politicians who consider themselves followers of Jesus were to join hands as sisters and brothers, owning the truth that their identity in Him trumps any political affiliation, ideology or “ism”?

What if in our social interactions and community conversations we looked first at people as sisters and brothers? Granted, many around us are not professing disciples of Jesus. We are called to love them just as much. For the moment though, let’s just consider those who are. When we look at those across town who are in need, and we realize that many of them are our brothers and sisters in Christ, how does that change our feeling, thinking, and acting?

What relationships do we intentionally cultivate with those who look and live differently from us? Those in whose neighborhoods we would not immediately feel at home? Might Christ be calling us to more than a passive and tacit acknowledgement of our filial love? Might God want a proactive and energetic engagement? What would that look like? Where would we even start?

If we actually took our identity in Christ seriously, how would we disagree differently? How would I listen more and worry less about convincing you of my point of view? Paul is so serious about this that he chastises the Corinthians for suing and taking a fellow Christian to court. Better, Paul says, to let yourself be cheated than to violate your relationship in Christ (1 Cor 6.1 ff). Can we bring forward the fullness of our unique identity AND affirm our unity in Christ?

**  A reflection for “Our Attachment to Identity” From 1 Corinthians 7:29-31   &   Mark 1:14-20 First preached Sunday 1/25/15 @ http://www.StPaulUCCDallas.org

GA-1327 (Sense-of-the-Assembly)

Adopted by the General Assembly
WHEREAS, “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world,” called to welcome others as we have been welcomed by God1 and to practice hospitality to one another,2 as well as to strangers;3 and
WHEREAS, Scripture affirms that all people are created in the image of God and share with all others in the worth that comes from being unique individuals;4 and
WHEREAS, Scripture affirms that as Christians we are many members, but are one body in Christ each with different gifts, called by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves,5 and called to the ministry of reconciliation and wholeness within the world and within the church; and
WHEREAS, Disciples historically affirm baptism as the primary call to ministry and offer baptism to all who profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior; and
WHEREAS, Disciples historically profess that the nature of Christian discipleship is profoundly informed by the Lord’s table, which is central to the act of worship, calling attention to the radical hospitality extended by Jesus, who welcomes all to the table of grace; and
WHEREAS, the Disciples’ movement came to be in reaction to limitations being placed on this welcome, recognizing that excluding anyone from the Lord’s table fragments the body of Christ; and
WHEREAS, the 1997 General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) called for the church to give continuing research and reflection “concerning the participation of gay and lesbian persons in the full life and ministry of the Church”;6 and
WHEREAS, persons continue to be devalued and discriminated against within society and more sadly, within the church because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity; and
WHEREAS, Disciples find identity at the Lord’s table, sharing as the body of Christ, valuing each other in covenantal relationship even we disagree; and
WHEREAS, Disciples historically affirm that individuals and congregations hold differing interpretations of scripture, but that all are called to transcend differences and claim one another in Christian unity;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, July 13-17, 2013, calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation; and
FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon all expressions of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a people of grace and welcome, to acknowledge their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all.
Douglass Boulevard Christian Church, Louisville, KY
Midway Hills Christian Church, Dallas, TX
Chalice Christian Church, Gilbert, AZ
Fireside Christian Church, Denver, CO
Little White Chapel, Burbank, CA
First Christian Church, Eugene, OR
Tapestry Ministries, Berkeley, CA
St. Andrew Christian Church, Olathe, KS
Lafayette Christian Church, Lafayette, CA
First Christian Church, Concord, CA
University Christian Church, San Diego, CA
First Christian Church, Vallejo, CA
New Covenant Community Church, Normal, IL
First Christian Church, Lynchburg, VA
Central Christian Church, Indianapolis
First Christian Church, Orange, CA
Open Hearts Gathering, Gastonia, NC
Bethany Christian Church, Tulsa, OK
Pine Valley Christian Church, Wichita, KS
Foothills Christian Church, Phoenix, AZ
GLAD-Pacific Southwest Region, Irvine, CA
GLAD Alliance

1 Mark 12:31 [Statement of Identity of the CC (DOC), Disciples.org]
2 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Peter 4:9
3 Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2
4 Genesis 1:26-7
5 2 Corinthians 5:18
6 Resolution No. 9719, A Call on the Participation of Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Life of the Church, accepted by the General Assembly meeting in Denver, Colorado, July 25-29, 1997.

A brief statement of faith.

God’s love for the world is revealed in the creating, redeeming, reconciling and sustaining work known in Jesus the Christ, who is Son of God, Savior and Lord. Through the Bible we receive a witness to the faith of the early church and the people of Israel from within whom the church was born as joint heirs through sharing in that same faith demonstrated by Abraham and Sarah, the parents of the Hebrew people. Through that faith they to set out on a journey to a promised future through which blessings would come – the blessing to be a blessing to others. The Holy Spirit which inspired and empowered the people of God, the incarnational ministry of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the birth of the church, continues to work in diverse ways to manifest God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven until the kingdom of heaven comes to earth. The church functions as a continuation of that incarnation initiated in Jesus as we work and worship, speak and serve in his name as he has taught us. We agree that we are called to follow Jesus and that we are one in him, even if we arrive at different conclusions regarding what it means for us to follow him. Through it all, we trust and pray that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 108) and that God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).