EACH ONE OF US IS LIKE A SAPLING IN THE GARDEN OF GOD, we bask in the light of the sun and strive to grow higher and closer to the source of our nourishment. We push through the dirt of this world and continually look up higher, all the while we are trying to understand our identity and what we are supposed to look like. A plant has no idea what it looks like, it just knows it’s a plant. It’s identity is based on what it does, so it digs into the soil, baths in the light of the sun and produces seeds so that the area around it will be filled with more plants like it.
There is no striving or confusion, the plant doesn’t try to be like a rabbit or a rock it is living out the purpose God created for it. It is the same with us, God desires for us to be like this plant for us to grow, develop, reproduce and enjoy the life God has created for us to partake in. We are to follow after the nature and purpose God has created us to be like, for those who have been redeemed by Christ and were brought into the New Covenant our spiritual DNA has been transformed from that of a rock to a living plant. No longer cold and hard but alive and drawn to the light of the sun.
Our identity then doesn’t begin with our name or our personality it begins with something deeper, it begins with the roots we are all connected to, Jesus. In John 15:1-8 Jesus speaks of those who follow Him as being like branches which are connected to a grape vine which is Himself. He goes on to speak of how we cannot produce fruit without His presence and support and without Him our branch simply dries out and is thrown away. We see then that Jesus is our source, He is our battery, He is our wi-fi, He is our water and so much else.
Understanding who Jesus is becomes our first step in understanding who we are, before we were disciples we saw our identity according to our own accomplishments, hobbies, desires, talents, jobs, education and so on. However, something changed when we entered into that covenant through faith in Jesus, our identity is no longer grounded in who we are but in who Jesus is. I am not saying through that we all have to wear the same clothes, listen to the same types of music, have the same hair cut or anything else like that. No, what I am saying is that Jesus becomes our common language which we speak. Jesus becomes the air which we all breath, and Jesus is the roof which covers us all, when we understand this then and only then can we live out the revelation of Galatians 3:28.
With plants there is an infinite variety of types shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, even with these differences they are still all plants. They all still live in the ground, absorb water and soak in the sun, they are still part of the same “family” despite their differences. So it is with all of us who are united in Christ, we were each created with infinite creativity and uniqueness and we are not destined to simply be clones of one another. We are individuals with varying interests, hobbies, cultures, languages and tastes but there is something deeper which unites us into one family.
Looking to Jesus for our Identity
When I speak about rooting our identity in Christ I’m not talking about walking around in a tunic with shoulder length hair and a beard (which would be extra awkward for women) I am talking about being reflections of Jesus’ words, compassion, justice, mercy, power and love. Jesus is the supreme prototype for how we are to live. We can see Him as the great tree which all other plants not only emerge from but are dependant for nourishment.
It is through our compassion and actions that we imitate Jesus in this world.
When we look at how Jesus lived in this world we see that He demonstrated compassion, love, frustration, emotion, grief, and a whole host of other expressions. He was merciful when mercy was needed but he was also firm in times of conflict. He offered grace to the woman caught in adultery but held the Pharisees to a standard beyond what they were used to. He rejoiced when the people came to him and he lamented when towns rejected Him, with these towns Jesus did not call down fire on them but spoke with a broken heart because He knew the consequences of their actions.
Jesus then becomes the gatekeeper, or firewall which determines what comes out of our mouth, what dwells in our minds and what we do with our hands. This is what Paul eluded 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he declared, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (NKJV). In John 13:12-17 Jesus commands the disciples to follow His example of washing each others’ feet as an act of servitude and humility. Notice He doesn’t say to wear their clothes in a certain way, or to wear a custom bracelet to show the world they are Jesus’s followers, no it is through their compassion and actions that they imitate Jesus in this world.
I am who I am says I am
With this abundance of uniqueness which God has blessed each of us with it is no wonder why we have such and expansive list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 15, or it is why we have a five-fold ministry instead of just a singular priesthood. God made us all unique and so that we can fulfill the totality of the Great Commission, there are those of us created for compassion, some for teaching, some for artistry, some for business, others for evangelism.
There are those who are introverts others extroverts, some are exuberant while others are soft spoken and no one is better than the other. Each one was uniquely created to serve God and to have an impact in the place and time God created them to live in, because there are people both inside and outside of the church who can only be helped but someone just like you. For God crafted you to be unique, quirky, flawed, talented and so many other traits right from the beginning.
Psalm 139:15-17 “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (NKJV)
What do we do next about our identity?
Going forward we have to first learn and understand who Jesus is and use that inspiration and foundation to build our own identity upon. We are to be holy, but not “holier than thou”, we are to be loving but not taken advantage of, we are to be firm in our biblical convictions but not judgmental, we are to live by faith but not by wishing, and we are to be ourselves but without the flaws of the flesh. At the end of the day you are to go out and live like a plant, be it a tree, flower, grain, bush, vine, grass it doesn’t matter what kind you are.
What is important is that you remain rooted deeply in the ground, your drink in the water of life, you bath in the light of the sun and your grow and grow so you can produce fruit and seeds so the great garden continues to spread throughout the earth.
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The Roots of Our Identity as Christians Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.