Identity

 

Identity is something many people struggle with. For some they have no idea where they have come from or what has shaped their life. I have been blessed to never have this struggle. Both of my grandfathers were highly interested in genealogy. My Grandpa McCarty was the one who was much more vocal in telling his grand kids about who we are and where we came from. This knowledge has shaped a lot of who I am and how I view the world. My family came to the United States before the Revolutionary War, we fought on both sides of the Civil War we took part in the westward expansion of this country. We are also Native American and walked the Trail of Tears to end up in Oklahoma. All of these things have contributed to my view of myself for many years. I am part Native American; I am descended from the Irish High Kings these things have told me that I have the DNA of people who have been conquerors or who have overcome enormous obstacles to their survival. It was so important to my Grandpa McCarty that he included this reminder for his whole family in his funeral last November. I am grateful for this knowledge but there is another part of my identity that supersedes all of this and I believe my grandpa would agree given his career as a pastor. I am a Christian.

As a Christian there is no other identity that should define that. If I am a Christian than my American identity comes under that. I am not to live as a Christian who is defined by being an American. I am not a better Christian because I am an American, in fact being an American comes with its own challenges to following the way of Christ.  I am not to be identified by the label of Democrat or Republican. Despite what some faith leaders may say right now the way of Christ does not fall in line with either of these political parties and we should not be more inclined to follow a political ideology than our Lord and Savior. This extends into denominational lines as well. I am a member of a Southern Baptist church but if the SBC does something I believe the Bible disagrees with I believe that I should follow the Bible. This isn’t always easy, sometimes I like the safety of being in a more conservative tradition so it can be hard to accept what the Bible says. On the other side of things it can sometimes be lonely standing against one of the biggest denominations out there from the inside. I would argue that is true no matter what group you belong to religious or secular.

So then if these things should not overshadow our identity as a Christian what does our identity look like? This will be different for everyone but there are two things I think every man should know about his identity if he is in Christ. First, you are a son of the Most High God and brother of Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin. Christ’s sacrifice has freed us from this bondage by relying on their strength you can overcome the sin that tries to drag you down. Second, you have brothers and sisters that don’t look like you, understand your culture or speak the same language as you. Despite these seemingly major differences we have more in common ultimately with these brothers and sisters than with the unbeliever that works in the same building you do or lives on your street.

Advertisement

Passing on the Faith

Historically, men have been the ones who have overseen teaching the Christian faith to the next generation. There are a few exceptions in scripture, but this is not a debate about women teaching in the church but is intended to be a challenge for me to step up and actually have an active role in the spiritual raising of their children. I often get annoyed by talk about how the church has been feminized and we need a more manly Christianity. I do not think the church needs more men going to the shooting range or groups of men sitting around a table eating various kinds of wild game. I believe that if there is a masculinity problem in the church it is because men refuse to be involved not just in the church but in the raising of their children. To be fair I know many great men who are actively involved in church and in the raising of their children, but I have seen far more men check out of both contexts.

When it comes to seeing a man, who is an example of faith I got the blessing of watching my Grandpa John for the first 18 years of my life actively model what it means to be a Christian. John had grown up poor but had worked hard and became a successful businessman by the time I came into the family. He also had an incredible thirst for knowledge so much so that he had an impressive library in one of the rooms of his house that was predominately theologically focused. However, it was not the knowledge that had the most impact on teaching me how to be a Christian.

Until I moved to Joplin to go to bible college, I lived on the opposite side of a 10-acre farm from my grandparents. We ate dinners as a family and spent time together every evening. We also rode to church together every Sunday and Wednesday night. With this proximity I got to see my Grandpa John live out his faith. I got to see him pray, read scripture, walk by faith, and teach others. I got to see him confront people who taught things that were unorthodox as well as support those who took stances that despite being scriptural were not popular.

While I saw all these things my grandpa didn’t necessarily sit me down and teach me each of these things, but he modeled them on a daily basis. He also passed some of these responsibilities on to me as I grew up. While he did these things, he knew what he was doing. He knew that by modeling these things his children and grandchildren would pick them up. As we grew, he passed some of these things on to us. He would have us pray at the dinner table; he would help us when we taught a Sunday school class of our peers by showing us how to interpret the Bible but never doing it for us.

I honestly learned more about faith and the Bible from my grandpa than I did in either bible college or seminary, both of those experiences were valuable but they really just gave me the resources to back up what I already knew and knocked off some of the hard edges. I say this about my time in Christian higher education because I want you to know that you do not have to have a seminary degree to teach your kids how to be a Christian. All you need to do is live your faith in front of them.