Spirituality for Today – May 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 10

Identity Crisis

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

The nineteenth century American preacher, Howard Hendricks made a very clear statement respecting Jesus' self-awareness, "There was no identity crisis in the life of Jesus Christ. He knew who He was. He knew where He came from, and why He was here. And He knew where He was going. And when you are that liberated, then you can serve." In the final phase of the ministry of Jesus, He made a concerted effort to establish a certainty in the apostles about His identity. Very soon, these loyal, yet still questioning, followers would have to bring the presence and teachings of Christ into the world. They would have to truly know who He is in order to know who they are. That awareness, absolute and irrevocable, would dwell within their hearts and souls. Their identity as witnesses beloved by God and infused with the Holy Spirit compelled them to glorious service and, for many, to martyrdom.

A photo of a painting of DostoyevskyA Painting of Dostoyevsky

Do you know who you are? Jesus asked, "Who do people say that I am?" Peter knew. If you put that same question to your family and friends, would they know? Would you? The answer could be made on many levels of relationship or according to the number of functions you perform. These responses may be accurate to a fashion but incomplete. Personally, we may be at a loss to predict how we would act in a given situation. Often, we are surprised by the depth of emotion we bring forth in the presence of particular events in our lives. Even as we age, changes in personality can occur. My subject, however, is not focused on the psychological aspects of who we are but the essence of who we are. For that, each of us must come to grips with matters of faith. When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, he inadvertently indicates something about himself. Jesus said that the Father revealed that information to Peter and thus, Peter is the one who will be the "rock" upon which the identity of countless individuals will be, shall we say, set in stone. In the sacrament of Baptism, we became identified, marked as children of God. For many, the significance of this fact fades before all of the utilitarian identities we accrue through living. Yet, being a beloved child of God is the foundation and the zenith of our human existence. When the prophet Samuel says, "Here I am, Lord!" He professes that all that his "I" means is dedicated to doing the Will of God. He offers his "I" or his total "self" to being defined as a servant of God. Samuel is sure of his identity. What is the movement of being faithful other than rejoicing in presenting our "I" to the God whose love and mercy gives us an identity whose worth and dignity no one and nothing on earth can provide.

Even those who renounce Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and of virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old.

– Dostoyevsky

There was a British mine worker who spoke to his colleagues about the Final Judgment. He opined that there was neither a Throne nor a Book, but just Jesus. This repentant miner said that he would rather be cast into the fires of hell than to have Christ look at him and say, "Well?" As a follower of Christ and depending on His merciful love, we all shall come to see that it will be the evidence of our life lived striving to fulfill our identity as God's child that will matter.

As frail human beings, our actions may be variable, our values weak before temptation, our faith lacking in fervor, but there is one thing no true believer in Christ is ever faced with – an identity crisis.