I once heard a radio program about call center workers in India. North American companies often contract out their call center work to cheap labour in India. However, many North Americans get annoyed and agitated when they call that number and then hear someone who’s obviously from India. So many call center workers suppress their Indian identity as part of their work. They take extensive training to get rid of their Indian accent, they adopt American accents, take a Western name, adopt a Western diet and so on. So when you call that number, Jim who sounds like he’s from Boston might really be Raj from Mumbai.
As Christians, we have a distinct identity in Christ. Believers are united to him and that means that our identity is bound up in him. Who we are is totally related to who he is. What we’re like and what we’re becoming is entirely related to what he is like. You can’t separate a Christian’s identity from Jesus Christ.
Yet that’s exactly what we’re so often tempted to do, isn’t it? We’re tempted to divide our life up into little air-tight compartments. This compartment is what I do for entertainment and it has nothing to do with this compartment that has everything related to being a Christian. This compartment is for me at work and it has nothing to do with the “religious” compartment. This compartment is for me on the Internet and it has nothing to do with the “faith” compartment. The world insists that this is the way you should live. If you have religious convictions, you must keep them in that air-tight compartment and don’t ever let them out. It makes things uncomfortable for people around you if you do. Our own sinful nature tempts us to do that too – after all, it’s much easier to take the compartmentalized approach to life. The people at work are never going to give you a hard time if you just talk and act like one of them. That’s what we mean by suppressing your identity in Jesus Christ, hiding the fact that you are united to him.
Scripture speaks to that temptation in several places. For example in Colossians 3, Paul points out that believers who are united to the ascended Christ should let that fact always be evident. Christians cannot ever suppress their identity, they can’t be hiding who they really are in Jesus. If they have a new nature in him, it should be obvious in things like “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Our identity in Christ should be seen as we bear with one another and forgive one another (Col. 3:13). Overarching it all, our identity in Christ should be evident in our love, “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14). Finally, that identity is lived out by doing “everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Fellow Christians, we have to be who we are in the risen Lord Jesus. No more identity suppression.