A while back, our pastor preached through Galatians as my Life Group studied Romans. It was awesome to dig into their parallels as Paul argued for the truth of the Gospel against the lies of the world. Something that stood out to me in the context of today’s “cause culture” (a term I probably just made up that isn’t echoed by any real research), is the concept of identity. If you have a Facebook account, you’ll know what I mean. (If you don’t have a Facebook account, congratulations.)
When I say “cause culture” I’m referring to the constant soapboxery (another made up term) that pervades my News Feed. Politics, religion, anti-religion, anti-politics, give them more, they have too much, my sports team, your sports team, I’m offended, they’re offended, someone MIGHT be offended, how could they, you should, etc. etc. Or maybe I’m the only one with Facebook friends who promote “awareness” through social media.
I understand that people are going to tout what they believe in, as they should. But has anyone ever been convinced of an opposing view via a Facebook post or linked article? Most of what I see is vehement alliance or opposition with a sprinkling of “live and let live.”
So where do Romans and Galatians come in? Glad you asked (even if you didn’t).
In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes that he has been crucified with Christ and that it is no longer he (Paul) who lives, but Christ who lives in him. In Romans 6, Paul writes that believers have been baptized into Christ, are united with Him in His death and will be united with Him in resurrection. The idea of union with Christ is like the botanical process of grafting two branches together. There’s a oneness that takes us from unity to union. This distinction was pointed out to me recently. Unity often carries the definition of solidarity. It’s simply a sympathy formed by shared ideas or emotions. I can mentally agree with someone and have “unity” with them.
Union, on the other hand, carries the weight of oneness. It’s a seamless combining that takes two things and makes them one thing. That’s how our identities are as believers. We are to be identified by our life in Christ. It’s no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. When people adamantly defend their various causes as the prime issue in life, THAT issue is usually tied to where they find their identity. For people who don’t claim to be Christ-followers, this is more understandable. These folks haven’t claimed that they’ve surrendered their everything to Christ. They aren’t, rightfully, identified with Christ because they are not in Christ. For believers, we need to assess our motivations.
“But wait, what if my cause is really noble and prescribed by scripture?” Awesome! Just champion that cause with the character of Christ. If anger, incredulity, and defensiveness characterize our heroism it’s probably not Christ’s attitude leading the way. If we’re just concerned about winning the argument, keeping our guns, etc. we might need to slow our roll and check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.
Does God want us to defend the defenseless, speak for the voiceless, feed the hungry, liberate the oppressed? Yes, I believe He does.
Does He want us to let our flesh take over in order to convince or “correct” those who disagree with us? No, I don’t believe He does.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” - Colossians 4:6
It’s not just causes that shape our identities. Sometimes what competes with our identifying with Christ are the roles we play in life. If my prime identity is as a father I will begin to worship my child, because that is what sustains by identity. If my prime identity is as a pastor I will begin to worship success and feedback from people, because they are what sustain my identity.
As Christians, when thinking about how to identify our identity thieves, it’s similar to pinpointing our idols. Take a look at where your time is devoted. Assess what makes you defensive (angry even). Consider what you “couldn’t live without.”
We vigorously defend what we think sustains us because we don’t want it taken away.
The beauty of identifying with Christ is that He doesn’t need defending. He is our defense. I’m not saying, “Stay mum on the causes of Christ and Christianity.” I’m saying that indignation is not fruit of the Spirit. I’m saying that if our lives are hidden in Christ, it’s His character that accompanies His message. He doesn’t need us to stick up for His causes. He invites us to be walking, talking manifestations of His powerful, life-changing Gospel!