The True Story of Who We Are

In Lecrae’s song “Dirty Water” he points out the damage done by telling, being told, and believing lies about who we are:

Worthless, worthless, 400 years we done heard that

My family came here on slave ships

Some herd cattle, some herd blacks

Know some of y’all done heard that

My kin was treated less than men

That’s why we raised to hate each other, ‘cause we hate our skin

Lies you told about yourself that you don’t realize

I must be a thief, she locked the doors when I was walking by

They must be whores ‘cause the master rapes them and leaves the child

So dead beat daddy was taught to me way before my time.[1]

Lecrae is, of course, talking about the horrors of American slavery and the lingering systemic racism that plagues the United States. He hits on a crucial aspect of identity in this song: the African American person in this song has been told lies about who he is, and now he has adopted those lies for himself, which has led him to have a false view of his worth and role in life.

The Bible was written in a cultural context where people believed similar lies about who they were. The competing creation stories of said that humans were created as slaves to the gods, there only to do the work the gods didn’t want to do and to provide for the needs of the gods. The Bible presents a radically different picture—there, a loving God creates humans out of his goodness, places them in a garden, gives them meaningful work, and lives in right relationship with them. Humans are created to have relationship with God and each other, not as God’s slaves.

Can you imagine what a different picture of reality that is? If you had lived your whole life believing that you were worthless, there only to do the work that no one else wants to do, then someone came along to tell you a powerful, loving God created you to have a relationship with you? Can you imagine how that would change your view of yourself, others, and especially of God?

Culture tells us lies about who we are. It wants us to believe that our value is in what we can produce, how big our Twitter following is, how many likes our posts get, how many subscribers our YouTube channel has. And like Lecrae says, culture tells some of us that we are less worthy, less valuable because of our skin tone. These lies impacts how we live. Dramatically. The truth that sets us free, like the truth that set free the original audience of Genesis, is that the God of the universe created us. And that should change how we live. It should set us free to live as God first intended in the garden—enjoying relationship with him and with others, and enjoying the good things he has given us, like work, food, and a spouse. That’s the true story about who we are.