Identity Theft and Our Glorious Calling

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

— Jesus (John 3:16)

Every morning, I remind myself of certain truths. This is a profoundly important practice for me because it sets the tone and structure for the day. Central to these affirmations is the answer to the question: who am I?

This gets beyond what my birth certificate says to the deeper answer to what is most important about me. I am a beloved child of God who is made in the image of God. I affirm this identity because I want to live out of it. It reminds me of my value and worth in the eyes of God and reminds me that I don’t need the world’s affirmations. Beyond that, this truth is also an expression of my vocation.

Made in the Image of God

To be made in the image of God means that God has given us a very important job in two parts. The first is that we are created to worship the living God. God has created us to have God at the centre of our lives and to praise him in all things. Remember, worship is not primarily about ‘going to church and singing’. It is a matter of gazing with delight, gratitude, and love at our Creator God, and expressing his praise.

Worship changes us in a fundamental way. N.T. Wright says that we “are formed by this activity to become the generous, humble stewards through whom God’s creative and sustaining love is let loose into the world.” This is the second point of my job and yours. We are called to reflect God’s benevolent love into the world. God has given us the task of being stewards, or caretakers, of God’s creation. This is not just about trees and nature, though it includes them. It is also about caring for everything that is our responsibility.

Every good deed that you do brings glory to God and builds for the kingdom of God. God calls you to make every aspect of your life holy by bringing the love and presence of God into it. It is a high and holy vocation.

We Fall Short of Our Glorious Vocation

You are a temple of the living God, just as all of creation is meant to be the place where God dwells. The problem is that sin gets in the way.

The word ‘sin’ is an archery term which means ‘to miss the mark.’ What is the mark that we miss? We do not live into our vocation as people created in the image of God. When we love other things in our lives more than God, we become formed in the image of those other things. It becomes a kind of spiritual identity theft.

The most obvious example is money. When we start to love money more than God, money begins to define our identity and vocation. This is called greed. But money is just one among many things that can claim our attention. This dynamic of false love (idolatry) has a power and a hold on our lives.

Restored Through Jesus

So what does God want to do? He wants to break the power that false love holds over our hearts. God wants to restore us to our vocation as his image bearers in the world. In this context, we have to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus — the Atonement — as God’s work of resetting or restoring our hearts and all creation to be a temple of God.

I will have to finish this next time. Please remember, if the atonement summons up visions of a God who supposedly loves you but wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to throw you into hell if you believe the wrong things, this is a caricature. It’s a kind of identity theft of how we see God. While people sometimes believe this portrayal of our relationship with God, it is not the New Testament vision. The New Testament casts a beautiful and revolutionary image of our renewed vocation and the coming of the kingdom of God.

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One Reply to “Identity Theft and Our Glorious Calling”

  1. I have great difficulty focusing on atonement as the central theme of my Christian Journey. Right now I am reading again after doing Ignatian The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault and I see in the Incarnation death, resurrection and ascension the way to a transformed life. The sinful world , even atonement is there. But for me it is more about Jesus freely sacrificing, giving away his life to fully complete his ministry. Such giving being needed by each of us to be transformed and fully whole. And possibly atonement is a word that catches me. I can get caught in language that I do not fully like or comprehend and that becomes a barrier for me.

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