Identity is a huge issue for those in the 21st century world and has become much more of an issue than it ever has before. We all like to fit in somewhere, it’s part of our human nature. From the beginning of our existence we have divided ourselves into family groups and tribes, identifiable to those around us by the land we claim and the customs we adopt. In modern society there is a great pressure to identify ourselves in a particular way and most people tread a tight rope between the mainstream culture and individuality. I’ve recently seen Will Young’s song, ‘Losing myself’ which identifies with falling totally to the mainstream.
Studies have been carried out and it’s thought that the average person can be confronted with up to 3000 advertisements per day, each begging for their attention, each trying to persuade that their product will change their life, make them cooler and sexier and completing all their quests in life.
There is a great concern especially for our young people who are pulled in every direction during those essential years when they are finding out who they are and what they are about. ‘Am I cool enough?’ ‘Funny enough?’ ‘Pretty enough?’ ‘Fashionable enough?’ ‘Likeable enough’
‘Am I enough?’
We seem to be in the generations of people pleasers, all concerned about what other people think about us. We will change our hair, clothes, likes, interests if we think it will make us more popular. Even those who seem to reject society and popular status are still trying to live up to an image. I remember well my ‘emo’ days (we didn’t call ourselves that then, but that’s the label that would be applied to us now), even when we were trying to reject the ‘mainstream’ likes and fashions we were still living up to a certain image by the style of clothes we wore, the bands on our t-shirts and hoodies and the music coming from our MP3’s.
We all want to fit in somewhere, we all need to fit in somewhere, whether it’s in the mainstream of society or somewhere out on the fringes.
Our identity crisis has much more of an impact then just on the individual. We live in a global society but instead of us being more accepting, many have just found new ways to divide ourselves. Last Sunday I preached on 1 Kings 17:17-24 of Elijah and the widow’s son, and Luke 7:11-17 of Jesus and the widow’s son.
I focused on Luke, although the stories are very similar. I explained the situation the widow found herself in when she learnt her only son was dead, because women at this time had to be represented by a man, or they became non-people. Without a male kin she would have no power and no social standing, and although the scriptures were very clear about the care of widows, that they were to be looked after, cared for and not exploited, this was no guarantee of protection in a man’s world.
The act of resurrection moves beyond the physical resurrection of the son, Jesus also resurrects the woman from her non state, broken by society and given a full life once again. She was brought from death to life.
Jesus did not only change people’s lives, he changed social orders. This is the work of God, caring for those that society wants to leave behind. The world is getting smaller with each technological advance, but instead of embracing others, and their traditions and cultures, we use them to divide ourselves further.
Sexuality, religion, ethnicity, language, nation, age, wealth, gender, music, TV the list goes on.
But this is not what God wants for us. God’s action is to restore the social order, to bring those we push out, back into our society. I see Jesus’ example of caring for the widow, and the deaf and blind and the lepers is a calling for us. We are called to be healers in our world, to restore all people with God, and to one another in Christ. We are to take Jesus’ example and be the change we want to see in the world.
If we truly are followers of Christ, then we will refuse to draw boundaries in our own lives, and refuse to exclude those who are different to us. We will work within our lives to right the wrongs and transform unjust social structures. We will welcome all into our churches and communities, and work together so that all people are fed, clothed, housed and cared for.
If we are truly followers of Christ we will work together for our common goal of loving one another as Christ loves us (John 13:34).
Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)