Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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How My Self-Identity Influences My Actions

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Merriam Webster defines self-identification: “the act of identifying yourself as a particular kind of person.” It is a term that has only recently gained prominence. Typically, it is used with regard to race, gender or sexual attraction. A dictionary example given is that of a man who has one parent who is black and another who is white, who self-identifies as black.

Most examples of self-identification are logical. I have children, thus self-identify as a father. I also self-identify as a husband, as a grandfather, as an American, and proudly, as a Texan. These examples are fact based. However, some other recent examples of self-identification defy logic and fact.

For years, a woman named Rachel Dolezal led people to believe she was black, even to the point of becoming the head of a local NAACP branch in Spokane, WA. It is how she self-identifies, despite both her parents being white. Interestingly, the uncovering of her racial makeup was not generally well-received. She has been labeled as a fraud, lost her position in the NAACP, and earlier this year she revealed that she is unemployed. She still denies she is white, and has stated that a proper expression would be “trans-black”, but laments the fact that “we don’t really have that vocabulary.” It seems that few are tolerant of her self-identification.

Interestingly, Dolezal has upset some in the trans-gender community because she claims that race, like gender, is fluid. It seems that some people just don’t appreciate logic! Gender self-identity is all the rage. Individuals who self-identify as girls, though genetically they are male (and vice versa), are to be treated as such. Any questioning of such a person’s honesty, or psychological well-being is considered hateful. The same is true with sexual orientation. It matters not that the primary purpose for sexual activity is reproduction, now the homosexual is to be considered normal and healthy. To say otherwise is unacceptable to the majority. I suppose if I were to self-identify as an asexual, green Martian, it would be considered by many to be normal and healthy.

But I don’t. My overriding self-identification is as a Christian. I consider myself to be the same as Paul, who stated that he was, “a servant of God” (Titus 1:1), and a “prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1). I do so because I accept as true the words of Peter, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). As such, I became obedient to the gospel of our Lord (cf. Hebrews 5:9), and have been “born again” (cf. John 3:3-5), to “newness of life” (cf. Romans 6:4).

My self-identity compels and directs the way I live my life. I do not claim that I am always consistent in this, but I do understand the importance of heeding Paul’s admonition, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8). I recognize that all other self-identities are ultimately vain if this one is not paramount. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all (Ecclesiastes 12:13). I also understand that any self-identification that conflicts with my primary identify as a Christian must be surrendered, no matter how important it may seem to be. This is required because Christ is my Lord. “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:8).

Consider how my self-identification as a Christian impacts the way I live my life:

  • First, I am compelled to love. The royal commands are to love God, and love your neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). My love of God compels me to obey His commandments (John 14:15). My love for my fellow man compels me to shine as a “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). I do not countenance hatred of others. I do not defend the racist. I do not allow any other association in my life, political or social, to keep me from sharing the gospel message with any other man. Nor will I, by pressing my view on any secular matter, impact the willingness of another to hear the gospel. Remember Paul, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you” (1 Corinthians 9:22b-23). It doesn’t matter if the subject is politics, essential oils, Amway, gun rights, or which truck brand is best, I am not going to present myself in a way that might lead some to reject the gospel because they don’t agree with me on some less consequential matter. As a modern application of this truth, I consider these things as I present myself on Facebook, or some other form of social media.
  • Second, I am compelled to seek righteousness. I am not willing to allow my liberty in Christ to be an excuse for liscentiousness. “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13). I take seriously Paul’s admonition that I “walk worthy of the calling” to which I have been called (Ephesians 4:1).

As I said, I am not perfect, and sometimes fail to conduct myself as a Christian should. But, to self-identify as a Christian, and then live in a hateful, worldly way, is just as illogical as a white woman self-identifying as black!

Now, how about you? Do you self-identify as a Christian? If so, please think of who you are before you ever speak or act!