I’ll be finishing up teaching an online course in just a few days. What prompts this blog are the responses I continue to receive from the “In Christ” assignment given in conjunction with studying the genre of the epistles. It used to be an extra credit assignment, but having been impacted time and again by the students’ reflections, it is now required.
As you can imagine, the worksheet includes a list of Bible references the student needs to read, review, and then come up with a word or phrase that completes the incomplete sentence, Since I am in Christ, by the grace of God I am…” On the backside of this worksheet, I pose a few questions. Here’s the third of four and this one always gets me: What does it look like when you forget who you are in Christ? Here are a handful of anonymous responses I’ve received (with permission) over time:
When I forget who I am in Christ I doubt myself and I don’t always act with the characteristics of Christ. I compare myself to my Christian friends and their relationships. I get angry easier and I don’t forgive, as I should. My relationships end up strained especially with my family and I hide things from my friends. And because of the strain on my relationships I get upset, which doesn’t help at all and I don’t want to admit my feelings or my wrong actions. I essentially turn inward and “self – destruct”…
I have realized that when I forget who I am in Christ, I am a darker person. I am angrier, and I feel all alone…My relationships are fragile when I forget who I am in Christ, I am short with people, I brush them aside. When I forget who I am in Christ, I am ugly.
I can’t control my emotions and I seek to find temporary and unneeded satisfaction in unnecessary things…I close up my insides and lock it so no one can come in. My relationships barely hold on by a thread. I am seriously and ultimately empty.
Low, down in the pits, a dull nagging that everything is never enough, and just overall lost in what I am supposed to do. Most of my relationships will also decline or become “me” or “sin” centered and I tend to be frustrated and in a perpetual hectic mode in order to please my own selfish desires.
My relationships with people are bad. I tend to be more selfish and less considerate of other people’s feelings. I begin to be judgmental of things that are minor and try to challenge people in unhealthy ways.
When I forget who I am in Christ, I’m easily irritated with my family. When I forget that I am complete in Christ, I seek fulfillment from my friends, I seek to define my identity based on my relationship with them and how they respond to me, which is never satisfying.
I am a lot more depressed, a lot angrier, more solitary, and definitely more confused. I look dead. I don’t want to open up or become transparent with my friends. I fight and argue with my friends. I hold grudges more and longer.
When I forget who I am in Christ, it brings out the worst in me (it brings out me). I have a short fuse. I put myself first and I’m too proud to admit that I have issues that need to be addressed. I fail to trust the Lord. Then when I go out, I put on a mask to hide the reality of my struggles.
I am like a tomb.
Answer these questions. How is it possible to reflect Christ when we have forgotten or have no clue what in means to be “in Christ”? What happens when we get a room or church full of people who have forgotten who they are in Christ? The very things that should not characterize the church—gossip, discrimination, lying, hate, and the list goes on—find their roots in a lack of knowing and living out who we are in Christ.
A cursory look at that assignment sheet reveals that each of the passages is found in the earlier part of an epistle. Each author places the indicative, the being part, before the imperative, the doing part. Being precedes doing. Knowing the truth of who Christ is and who you are in him then informs what that looks like lived out. This truth impacts everything and everyone. The unknown or forgotten indicative cripples the ability to live out the imperative.
“Do you have green hair?”
My husband posed this question to our daughter one day when she came home from elementary school crying. Apparently one of the boys in her class called her a hurtful name. Our daughter, through her tears, didn’t understand the question and responded with a “What?” After repeating the question, she answered, “Of course I don’t have green hair, Daddy.” His reply, “Then why do you let people tell you that you do?”
Who or what has convinced you that you have green hair? Or who among us has been telling others they have green hair? Spend some time pondering a few of these truths, that since you are in Christ, by the grace of God,
You have been rescued (Col 1:13)
You are alive (Eph 2:5)
You are forgiven (Eph 1:7)
You are not condemned (Rom 8:1)
You belong (1Cor 6:19-20)
You are complete (Col 2:10)
You are loved (Eph 2:4)
And this list goes on.
Paul reminds us that we are a new creation (2Cor 5:17). In the course of any day you are given countless opportunities to authenticate your new creation self. Will you allow God’s Spirit to give evidence of the truth that you are in Christ?
If you are interested, the "In Christ" worksheet can be found here.