The Identity Crisis of the Modern American Christian and How to Fix It
Is it a gross understatement to say that many modern American Christians don’t fully understand who they are in Christ Jesus? Is it too harsh an observation that many of us appear more aware of limiting self-perceptions, cultural labels, and even the lies of Satan himself, than who God says we are?
Have we succumbed to a bad case of spiritual amnesia induced by the blunt trauma of cultural blows to our identity as Christians? Did these then cause us to forget God’s repeated, personal faithfulness to us and disconnect us from remembering the unwavering history of His healing presence in our lives?
How Will We Define Ourselves?
As we begin to feel the squeeze of an increasingly antagonistic culture to Christianity around us — attempting to marginalize us and deem us irrelevant — how will we define ourselves? To be fair, “man vs. himself” identity conflicts have been fueling story lines for centuries. Think J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aragorn. Or Simba from The Lion King. Or more recently, Rey from Star Wars. Each character embarked on a life-changing journey that culminated in throwing off preconceptions and lies of what they believed about themselves and embracing their true and rightful identities. Their reframed identity propelled them to live on mission, transforming not only themselves, but also the world around them.
This begs so many questions. Aren’t we called to live just like this? Weren’t we given a new identity at salvation — when we were “born-again”? Didn’t we become a new creation in Christ Jesus where the old has passed away and the new has come (II Corinthians 5:17-18)? Doesn’t everyone who is “in Christ” go from: rejected to accepted (I Peter 2:10), orphan to son (Romans 8:15), led by flesh to led by spirit (Galatians 5:16), dead in sin to alive in God (Romans 6:11) and broken to made whole (Psalm 147:3)?
In light of this, why in the world would we ever even entertain thoughts of walking around afraid, intimidated, and feeling inadequate or alone?
Perhaps we need a refresher. Perhaps we need to remember who we really are in Christ.
Remember Who You are at Salvation
To fully understand who we are after salvation, we need to understand who we were not before. We were not able to save ourselves from the curse of sin and death. We were not able to pull ourselves out of sin patterns or relationally reconcile ourselves back to our Creator. In and of ourselves, we were not holy, not full of unconditional love, not on the right track. Honestly, we were doomed to an eternity separated from the love of God, even though we were made to know that very love.
All this changed when we believed that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, did for us what we could not do for ourselves. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Becoming the righteousness of God became just one of many markers defining the “new you” at salvation. Here are more:
- You are unable to be separated from the love of God (Roman 8:38-39)
- You are forgiven (Colossians 1:14, 2:13)
- You are made alive together with Christ (Colossians 2:13)
- You are called out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9)
- You are an heir to an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (I Peter 1:4)
- You are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints by the Father (Colossians 1:12)
- You are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
Furthermore, you are reconciled, adopted, and redeemed. You have been given a new heart, a new name, and a new purpose (I Peter 1:9). You have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred you into the kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13).
Remember Who You are to Christ Jesus
Through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His commands, your relationship to Jesus has changed. You can now define yourself as a “friend of God.” Jesus Himself said in John 15:15, “but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” You now see yourself on the inside of secrets, as accepted into a close circle, as belonging. You are not left out or left alone. Jesus is a friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). When you know that, it secures your identity in relationship to the most important presence in your life: His.
You are the Bride of the Lamb of God for all eternity (Revelation 19:7-8). As His Beloved, you are made beautiful and ready for your Bridegroom. You are desired, cherished and forever loved. You are brought into a covenant that will never be broken or betrayed. What security, empowerment and protection are found when we identify ourselves by so beautiful a love!
You are a member of the Body of Christ, with Christ as the head of the body (I Corinthians 12:12-27). When you know you are a member of the Body of Christ, you have the confidence to understand that your place in the body is valuable, useful and needed. You are inextricably connected to something bigger than yourself — and this truth fuels both your passion and purpose.
Remember Who You are to the World
Not one moment of Jesus’ life was spent in an identity crisis. From the beginning, Jesus knew who He was and why He came — and He wants to impart that same sense of healthy personhood and purpose to every one of his disciples. He wants all of us to know who we are to the world. This is why He said in Matthew 5:13-14, “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.”
When we are struggling with who we are, it can get messy. We get confused. We forget who we are to the outside world, and those emotions can put us into hiding.
Look at how Jesus speaks the opposite over us. He says, “Preserve and flavor the earth! Light up a dark world! There’s no use in trying to hide because I didn’t make you to hide! I made you to be seen as an example of what life is supposed to look like. Don’t apologize for who you are.”
Showing up and showing out for Jesus comes from a profound confidence in knowing who we are in Christ. While we may experience temporary “spiritual amnesia” from time to time, we can move forward by reinforcing our identity in Christ, triggering memories of God’s faithfulness to us while declaring over ourselves, “I am who You say I am.”
Annemarie McLean is a four-girl mom, freelance writer, and co-founder of Brave & Beautiful, a ministry focused on challenging young women to live purpose-driven lives full of courage and character, while developing Christ-centered inner beauty. Annemarie holds a journalism degree from Oral Roberts University, with graduate work in organizational leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University.