02 Apr Identity: 4 Thoughts. 1 Question.
Not long ago we differentiated sexual orientation with two words: “gay or straight.” Within a short span of time, the addition of new “labels” reflects not only proponents introducing specific language, but the unintended consequences of every possible variation of a person’s desire to be identified and called “x.”
Thought #1: What defines us?
If I asked you to define yourself in one or two words, how would you answer? Go ahead…think about – “How would I define myself in one or two words?”
At some level we let labels, titles, orientation or some “thing” define us. Beyond our given name, we likely embraced a primary “identity term” that we prefer to describe or define ourselves with.
From a biblical theological framework, it is reasonable to say you and I either define ourselves by what the world “labels” us (or a label we choose) or how the Word of God “labels” us. In other words, we have the choice of defining our identity in what the world offers or what God’s word offers.
Thought #2: Most of us like some kind of label.
An “Urban Dictionary” is illustrative of how language emerges as things change. Even “gay” or “straight” used to be quite detached from modern morality. On the one hand, a tribal culture that experiences little if any change may not need to adapt it’s language. But if external environments introduce cultural changes, new language develops to describe new things.
Simple enough. That makes sense.
Some ares of our culture label using the basics. Law enforcement might recognize a suspect as a “white, 20 something male, approximately 5’ 10”, brown eyes, brown hair, short beard, last seen wearing blue jeans and a sports logo T-Shirt…” Similarly, a medical professional might dictate, “patient is a Hispanic female, 32 years old, 5’ 5” weighing 120 lbs., blood pressure 117 over 76, presenting with cluster headaches…”
But are these the “label” we would choose?
Others prefer to be labeled by their ethnicity, I am African American, Hispanic, Bi-racial, White, Korean or Asian-American… But is that what defines us?
Or do we prefer a relational label: father, mother, husband, wife, doctor, teacher, musician… but, like the “Urban Dictionary”, we are welcome to nuance our label until we like it.
Thought #3: Is sexuality an identity?
Okay, here we go – that is the big question.
With definitions of sexual identity rising – LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual) – it is difficult to stay current. Search further and you will discover other terms slowly working their way into the discussion. (I ran out of time reading about “The Genderbread Person v2.0”.)
Remarkably absent in the discussion is “heterosexual.”
An excellent question is why all the fuss about labels? On the one hand we want our individualistic rights to “Be whomever we want to be” but on the other hand we want to belong. It seems we are meant to be identified with others.
So even the idea of being “asexual – not attracted to anyone” is redundant unless that person wanted to identify with others who are asexual or at least others who embraced them as they are; even if they profess they are not attracted to others, they long for some community that accepts them.
So the question for you: “Do we even want our identity to be a LGBTQIA or even heterosexual?”
Matthew Moore, in a recent blog, notes:
#1 question is: Why does the world say that an unchosen sexual disposition isn’t changeable, but an unchosen gender is?
The message that our culture (not me, but the culture) puts forth is this:
A homosexual disposition is determined at/before birth and therefore it is something that is good and does not need to change.
Gender is determined at/before birth, but it is something that should be changed if so desired.
A person didn’t choose their homosexual disposition; therefore God made them that way.
A person didn’t choose their gender, but God didn’t make them that way if they don’t want to be that way.
Attempting to change one’s sexual disposition is harmful for a person because they’re going against the way they are designed.
Attempting to change one’s gender is healthy for a person because they are correcting their mistaken design.
Matthew raises the challenge created by somewhat of a straw man and brings into question the very notion that we are some specific label.
Thought #4: Alignment and Identity.
Sewn deep in the fabric of our spiritual DNA is a conflicted, selfish, demanding, protective, fearful, angry… script. As one ancient writer described:
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB95)
It may be hard to admit, but we all are deeply sick. The sin nature is described and defined in Scripture many different ways. We are all fallen and sinful and as such, no one is innocent (Rom. 3:10, 23). We can no more change our sin nature than disown our nationality.
But God can change us.
Simply put: we are either sinners in a relationship with God or not.
If we have a relationship with Christ, that is, we have trusted in Christ and Christ alone for our salvation, He has made us a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). We are no longer the way we “used to be” but something new. As such, we have a new identity.
Scripture, we might say, “labels” followers of Christ in many ways:
- Little children 1 Jn. 2:1
- Beloved 2 Cor. 7:1
- Imitators of God Eph. 5:1
- Chosen of God Col. 3:12
- Dead to sin; alive to Christ Rom. 6:11
- A royal priesthood, holy nation, a people for God’s own possession 1 Pet. 2:9
As such, we live to follow Christ, to obey Him, not our chosen or self-defined “identity”. Not our orientation or even our sexuality.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (NASB95)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NASB95)
At the end of the day, we each have a choice. Our choice is to align with God’s word or the world’s opinion. God’s word is clear. The world’s opinion is up for grabs.
Since we are made in the image of God, it seems clear He knew our identity perfectly. To base it on how we feel or the world’s ever-changing opinions is to twist God at His word. It comes down to being a follower of Christ or a follower of some self-made definition of who you are.
Now for that question I was thinking about earlier: “How would I define myself in one or two words?”
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.