Identity

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)  

Never is America more polarized than when we are in an election cycle. Republican or Democrat, Right or Left, Constitutionalist or Socialist, Tea Party or Progressive – the labels go on. Without question, America is a phenomenon of human government. We’ve gone for more than two-hundred years under the same Constitution. No other nation has come close. We’ve been racked by Civil War, a Great Depression, the Vietnam War, repeated Presidential assassinations, Watergate, and 911, and yet we still move forward. Some might say that we’re going forward on shaky legs these days, with many of our hallowed principles and institutions under assault and our national strength diminished. Still, there is no other nation like ours on the face of the earth. It saddens me that there are those who are citizens of this great nation who don’t see her as being great. It saddens me even more deeply that many deny that God had any special purpose in her birth.

I do believe America is great. In fact, I believe that she is the greatest nation that has ever existed. This nation was built on the backs of immigrants, many of whom came by way of Ellis Island to the Land of Opportunity. Under the shadow of Lady Liberty, they gazed with wonder at the New World, sometimes with little more than the clothes on their backs, and forged a life through hard work and determination, so that one day their children, and their children’s children, might know a better world than they knew. Many saw this dream become a reality. They were proud to identify as Americans while never losing the love of the homeland from which they came.

America is different because what makes us Americans is different. We are not bound by a particular ethnicity or common ancestry. Rather, we are bound by a set of propositions which we we hold sacred and to which we adhere. Those propositions are embodied in our Constitution and other founding documents. Yet, it seems that America is more fractured today than ever before. Socially, religiously, racially, and in just about every other way imaginable, Americans are divided, and even, at times, at war with each other. Many, in fact, do not want to even identify as American any more, seeing her as an oppressor of men, rather than a liberator, an enemy and tyrant, rather than a safe harbor for the world’s weary and oppressed. Some would go so far as to say that they see her as a force for evil in the world, rather than a force for good.

But in reality, America will ever only be what men make her. She can be no better than her citizenry, and only as strong as the commitment of her people to the principles of liberty and democracy. As great as she is, she can be no better than “we the people.” The Founders recognized this. Their writings reveal that they were aware that this American experiment could only work if the citizens of this great nation were a moral people and held themselves accountable to a higher authority than their own personal interests.

A government by the people, no matter how noble its goals and aspirations, can only take us so far. The Bible tells us that man is a fallen being, and as such, he has “self” on the throne of his life, and his native north star is the pursuit and fulfillment of his own interests at whatever cost to others. No common identity will cause us to adhere if our hearts are darkened by sin. No noble or selfless ideal or purpose can survive if men do not have the power to live noble and selfless lives.

This is why Jesus came: to give us the power to become new. It is only through the transforming power of the gospel that we truly become a new man or woman in Christ, the old, selfish nature replaced by the love of God. He gives us a new identity by making us sons and daughters of God, united by bonds that transcend any natural affiliation or identity. As the scripture says, we “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

If there is any people who can erase racial prejudice, is is believers who identify themselves, not merely by their ethnicity, but as part of a heavenly family whose one law is to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34-35). If there is any people who can erase the hostilities between the sexes, it is those who know that God created us with equal value yet with complementary strengths that should be embraced and celebrated, rather than despised and rejected. If there is any people that can sit at the table with those with whom we differ and find a solution that transcends personal interest, it is that nation whose God is the Lord, whose people are committed to eternal principles that do not vacillate with the changing winds of culture and man-made ideologies.

All that is good in America is good because it came from God. If you take God out of America, and His rule from our nation, we lose any worthy distinction and will ultimately be torn apart from the inside. No outside enemy poses a threat to our nation like one generation of Americans without godly principles does. I love America, but I know that my true identity is in Christ. Only in Him do we share bonds that transcend the evils of this world and the selfishness of this age. Only in Him do we have the love that is capable of making personal sacrifices for a cause greater than ourselves. Only in Him do I find within me the capacity to love my enemies or even step outside myself to help a neighbor in need. My identity is in Christ, and it is who I am in Him that can make me a good American.

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