August 30, 2012 by cbbeard
We are all rectangles, but not all of us are squares. I believe that is a picture of identity as a group and as an individual. Within an organization or collective identity, there are certain traits or characteristics that we all have in common. It might be a belief system, a common goal, or something as simple as a common interest. Those things that we have in common are what make us “rectangles” (in that we all have four sides and four right-angle corners). However, within that group and collective identity is the individual who is unique based on influences outside of the collective identity. Even though we are all rectangles, we are rectangles of different sizes and dimensions based on our perspective and individual history.
I believe the Apostle Paul is very clear about the transition that takes place when we ask God to intervene in our lives through Jesus Christ. The center of our identity is no longer “me,” it is now “He.” Justification through Jesus changes our identity from the individual (an enemy of God, separated from him by sin) to being “in Christ” (still a sinner, but saved by the grace of God, and now displaying the righteousness of Christ). Sanctification, then is the ongoing transformation of “me” resembling “He” more and more.
For the church, Jesus is the “four sides and right-angle corners” which binds us together. Our new identity in Christ then defines (or perhaps redefines) how our individual uniqueness fits into the Kingdom of God. No longer is our uniqueness arbitrary or something that simply sets us apart from others; our uniqueness now becomes a determiner of how we fit into the collective identity (one Body, many parts!).
Context is very important in life and leadership. Understanding our own context helps us identify our strengths and limitations. Understanding the context of those we are leading will aid us in knowing what “makes them tick” and will guide us to better methods of communication and leadership.
Working in a church as I do, I believe one of the most important parts of my job (as Lead Minister) is to help my congregation see our true identity in Christ. It seems that in the American church people don’t see the change in identity; they simply see Christ as an “add-on” to their life; the church an “accessory.” For a congregation to reach their God-intended potential, they must understand their identity as a Body and as individuals within that Body (both locally and universally).
How does being a part of a group affect your identity? How should being a part of the church (both locally and universally) affect your identity?