We’re living in an age of rage. We’re angry about the pandemic. We’re angry about politics. We’re angry about racial injustice, rioting and chaos. We’re angry about having to take online classes. We’re angry about wearing masks, or we’re angry at those who don’t. We’re angry about those who take COVID too seriously, or we’re angry about those who think it’s over-exaggerated. We’re angry about changes in how we do church in our “new normal.” We’re angry about the uncertainty of our future.
It’s a good thing our identity isn’t wrapped up in the myriad of issues I just mentioned. Or is it? Maybe that’s why we’re so angry. A toddler gets mad when you take away his or her toy. Are we that much different?
I quoted Erwin Lutzer in a recent sermon when he wrote, “We need a theology of suffering rather than a theology of success” (The Church in Babylon). If our identity is enmeshed with our prosperity, is it any wonder why we grow angry when that prosperity is threatened?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating we disengage, isolate, or withdraw. We need to have civil debate (and I emphasize the word “civil”). We need to discuss worldviews, political philosophies, and COVID strategies. But when we become enraged over things not going our way, I wonder if we’re too closely aligning our identity (our sense of purpose, meaning and self-worth) with our political views, comforts, or successes?
In the story of Creation, God gave Adam and Eve their identity. They, and all of humanity that followed, were created in His image (Genesis 1:27), and they received their foundational sense of identity vertically. This vertical identity gave them, and us, guidance for daily living and boundaries to protect our hearts. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was profoundly more than eating forbidden fruit. They were rejecting their vertical identity and accepting a horizontal identity that did not have God at the center of their lives.
Since the Fall in Genesis 3, we have been looking horizontally for what we were designed to receive vertically. Wherever we look for identity will rule over our hearts and direct the way we live our lives.
A political perspective can be helpful in the exercise of our civic responsibility. But if our identity is subjugated to being Republican or Democrat, we get enraged by those on the other side of the political aisle. If your candidate loses, if your team loses, if your toys are taken away from you, do you become enraged? Yes, we all experience the human emotions of discouragement and disappointment. But despair is not to be in a Christian’s vocabulary. Paul wrote, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8, NIV).
We have vertical identity, an identity in Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). To Him we cling; to our opinions we hold hands. Whatever may be taken away from us in this world pales in comparison to the One who holds us fast both now and forevermore. It’s a good thing our identity is in Him.