Our Brokenness: Who We Are or How We Are
Do these sins define our identity? Are they who we are? Must we bear them like name tags, keep them pasted to our torsos, label ourselves for perpetuity?
“Hello, my name is jealous friend.”
“Hello, my name is porn addict.”
“Hello, my name is gossiping neighbor.”
If I were to bear just a couple of my own stubborn sins on a name tag they might read, “Hello, my name is impatient parent who speaks harsh words.” Or, “Hello, my name is selfish spouse who’s keeping score.”
The thing about bearing our sins like name tags—allowing them to define us—is that we get used to them. We grow accustomed to our labels and even justify them to those who read them. We explain away our sin in the name of authenticity. We grow comfortable in them, wrap ourselves up in them, and invite them to stay. They become cozy. We begin to believe they are who we are.
But though I may wear “angry parent” or “selfish spouse” like a cloak of identity, that’s not really who I am.
Those Things God Affirms Are the True Me
In Making Sense of God, Tim Keller brings helpful clarification. He says, “If I am a Christian, I am who I am before God. Those things God affirms are the true me; those things he prohibits are the intrusions of the foreign matter of sin and not part of the person I was made to be and the Spirit is bringing about.”
In The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Rosaria Butterfield shares her personal testimony of when she awakened to the truth that Keller points to. She says that as she began to learn more about God and a Biblical worldview, she had to ask herself, “Is being a lesbian who I really am, or is it how the fall of Adam made me? Is it my authentic identity or the distorted one that came through the power of Adam’s imputed and original sin to render my deep and primal feelings untrustworthy and untrue?”
Like Butterfield, we must ask ourselves, is my sin WHO I am, or HOW I am?
Made After the Image of our Creator
According to Genesis 1:27, who we are is: humans created in God’s own image. We were created before sin entered the world, to be the reflection of our good and holy God. For a moment in time, we were sinless, naked, and unashamed. It wasn’t until Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve rebelled, went their own way, and ate the apple. Sin was unleashed, passed through the ages, and even now it plagues us. We can’t escape it. We wrestle with it. But it’s not who we are, it’s how we are.
When Paul wrote the Colossians he instructed them to “put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). He listed things such as sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, which is idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying.
He said, “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:7-10).
Paul calls us to change how we are, so that we might walk in the truth of who we are: new selves, being renewed after the image of our creator.
Let’s Walk in our Authentic Identity
As humans—both those who follow Christ and those who don’t—we are not meant to be defined by our sin or our behavior. We are meant to be defined by our Creator—reflections of him. And as Christ followers, we have the power to live this out. We can rightly identify the intrusion of sin, reject it, and know that is not who we are. We are not destined to wear the name tag of our sin forever and ever.
We can know and walk in the power of the resurrection (Philippians 3:10). We have his divine power for everything we need in this life for godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Jesus sent us a helper—the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)—so that we may live out the reality of who we are.
We are his. Our authentic identity should reflect him. My identity is not as an angry mom or a selfish spouse. I am a new creation, a woman saved by grace who struggles with these sins. But I am hidden in Christ and they do not define me. Jesus does.
May we grab ahold of this truth and walk in it. May we throw off the shackles of how we are. May we instead rejoice and grow strong in who we are.