For the next six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we start with a core posture which relates to our identity: the posture of being shaped by God’s story.
Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be? Philosophers have pondered the nature of the human person for as long as they’ve been philosophizing. Understanding the enigma that is the self is not an easy undertaking. How do we reconcile our fears and our aspirations, our strengths and our weaknesses? Who are we when our jobs, our families, our stuff is taken away? Today, we’ll dive into Ephesians and 2 Corinthians to explore how we find answers to these questions (and more) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
What was something that you wore/owned as a kid that you thought made you cool? What was cool about it?
Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:13-21
- How would you define “identity?” What is it and why is it important?
CONVERSATION HELPER: Psychology Today says, “Identity is concerned largely with the question: “Who are you?” What does it mean to be who you are? Identity relates to our basic values that dictate the choices we make (e.g., relationships, career). These choices reflect who we are and what we value. For example, we can assume that investment banker values money, while the college professor values education and helping students. However, few people choose their identities. Instead, they simply internalize the values of their parents or the dominant cultures (e.g., pursuit of materialism, power, and appearance). Sadly, these values may not be aligned with one’s authentic self and create unfulfilling life. In contrast, fulfilled people are able to live a life true to their values and pursue meaningful goals. Lack of a coherent sense of identity will lead to uncertainty about what one wants to do in life.”
Read Ephesians 2:1-10
- How might verses 1-3 be translated into the modern day concept of “identity?” What claims is it making about human identity?
- What “desires” and “thoughts” do you think shape most people’s identities? What do most people say is important, and do they live up to those ideals?
- Verses 4-10 are eloquent and beautiful, but it is more verbose than is typical today. In your own words, what is the author saying in these verses?
- How is what God did through Christ relevant for your identity? Can what someone else does be important for your identity? Why?
- The NIV uses the word “handiwork” for the Greek word poiēma. This is where we get the modern day word for “poem,” and it tends to convey the idea of artistic creation. In short, the verse is saying that your identity is “God’s beautiful masterpiece.” Do you often feel that way? If yes, what reminds you of this truth? If not, what keeps you from living into this identity?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-21
- The author is connecting his identity in Christ to his actions in the world. What is the connection between identity and action? Are these two things always related?
- There are many descriptors that the author is using throughout this passage to describe what it means to be a “new creation” in Christ. What are they and how do they relate to our identity?
CONVERSATION HELPER: Here are a few key phrases to think about – ambassadors for God (v20), controlled by Gods love (v14), ministers of reconciliation (v18), reconciled to God (v20), the righteousness of God (v21).
- This passage starts with personal identity and moves outward towards how we identify others. What identifiers does this passage suggest that we use towards other people? In other words, who are they?
- The “ministry of reconciliation” is an important concept in Scripture and can be applied to many different areas of our lives. How is this passage describing this ministry? How is reconciliation supposed to relate to our identities in Christ?
Diving Deeper: Identity Formation
- Read the following excerpt from Psychology Today. According to Sharahm Heshmat, the process of identity formation has three goals:“The first task is discovering and developing one’s personal potentials. These personal potentials refer to those things that the person can do better than other things. How the person to discover what those best potentials are? The answer is a process of trial-and-error. This requires exposure to a wide array of activities, some of which we become able to do relatively well. This is recognized by the feedback we receive from others and our own positive feelings about those activities. These activities simply “feel right” to us, and these feeling are useful clues. We are intrinsically motivated to do these activities. However, the development of skills and talent requires time, effort, and willingness to tolerate frustration when obstacles to improvement encountered. Second step is choosing one’s purposes in life. It is necessary to choose what we are seeking to accomplish in our lives. To achieve substantial success in fulfilling our purpose, the objectives must be compatible with our talent and skills (our authentic self). To choose a purpose not compatible with our capabilities is a recipe for frustration and failure. Finally, one is required to find opportunities for the implementation of those potentials and purpose. Open societies allow for role mobility and flexibility to implement identity-related choices. However, this is not the case in close and rigid societies. For some, this may lead to emigration. Identity is never “final” and continues to develop through the lifespan.”
- The author outlines three stages to the identity formation process. How would our identity in Christ be a part of these stages?
- Though we are all made in God’s image and have a common identity in Christ, we also have distinctive personalities and identities. How do the unique parts of our identity relate to the communal, shared identity in Christ?
- How is the diversity of our individual identities also a reflection of God?