P0wned by Identity, Bought by a Savior

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20b)

Arguments about “identity” should end at this verse. For non-Christians, it’s meaningless noise. For Christians, it’s everything. We own nothing from our hair follicles to our toenails. Every drop of cytoplasm, every hormone, every spark of our synapses was paid for in full. Christ didn’t die for the “good” parts or the parts we let Him have; He wanted all of us.

That’s why it makes no sense for us to justify what’s natural or what makes us happy or what satisfies us. To do so breaks us into pieces, compartmentalizing where we will and will not surrender, what we will and will not hand over to Christ. But the choice isn’t ours. The price paid was for the whole shebang.

The heart loves to mass-produce idols, and identity works just as well as anything else. Deep inside, the hammers of what’s just and fair and right beat in time with our resistance to surrender. We know who we are, and we can’t change.

But the possibility of change is completely beside the point. Even if no change comes before the perfect does (1 Corinthians 13:10), even if the desires never stop, we have no room to act on them or justify them. We have no ownership in ourselves. Not even a partial vacation stake.

It all belongs to Jesus.

Christ urged us to follow Him with the heavy weight of lumber slung across our shoulders (Mark 8:34). That image is one of ownership. Why else would we take up humiliation and hardship to struggle after a bloodied Lamb? It isn’t an image of coercion, but of willingness. Just as the Messiah surrendered Himself to be crucified, we crucify ourselves to admit surrender.

The arguments about orientations or ingrained needs or natural behaviors focus on one thing: us. They point to who we are and what we want. Put succinctly, such discussions are nothing more than navel-gazing. We’re peering down at what makes us tick and letting that determine our course.

And ultimately, none of it matters. That navel we’re peering so deeply into belongs to Christ. He bought it.

We’ve got genes. They’re Christ’s. We’ve got a past. It’s Christ’s. We’ve got failures and foibles and more twisted thoughts than we know what to do with. And they’re hammered to the cross. The ownership of a Savoir sidesteps any arguments about identity because our true identity starts and ends with who we are in Christ. It undercuts any passionate defense of “who I am” because who we are is His. Nothing should come between us—the purchased—and the One who took care of the bill.

We must not let the clanging of our idol-making heart drown out the call of Christ to follow how He leads.

Salvation is free, but following Jesus isn’t. The cost isn’t in wealth or doing enough good stuff. It’s sacrifice—the willful surrender of even some of our most cherished beliefs about ourselves and what we need. When we come to Christ but refuse to surrender it all, we’re like the rich man who couldn’t bear the thought of empty pockets (Matthew 16:19-30). We’re not all in.

However you identified yourself before you got blisters from hauling around your cross, that identity is now the old identity. You gave it up to the One who paid up. You’re His. You’re new.

My Two Voices

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

I never read the Bible alone. Instead, there’s a squeaky voice tucked away in my head that likes to tag along. For the most part, it hums along in time with the steady cadence of Scripture, just waiting. But when something challenging pops up, something that pushes against the way I’m living, the tiny warble begins.

Brace yourselves because I’m taking you inside here.

Me: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires

The Warbler: You don’t need to worry about that. It says “old self.” You’re all brand-spanking new in here. Just ignore that.

Me: to be made new in the attitude of your minds

The Warbler: See. That’s totally you—new times two. Nothing left in here but soapy clean suds.

Me: and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The Warbler: Being like God? Yeah, right! That’s impossible. Not what that verse means. You can only do what you can do. Don’t worry about it. Next!

Me: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

The Warbler: Oh, man! You’re a truthfulness beast of awesome.

Me: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The Warbler: That doesn’t mean you have to be nice all the time. Do you really want people stomping all over you? You’ve gotta push back and give them some smack when they need it.

Me: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

The Warbler: All? Pshaw! After the way you acted yesterday, that’s obviously a ridiculous goal.

Me: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The Warbler: Eh, just focus on the Christ forgiving you part. It’s all about you, right?

Okay, okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. But from the conversations I’ve had, I don’t think I’m the only one who has such a voice that “helps” interpret Scripture. We all come to the Bible with certain ingrained expectations about ourselves, the world, and God. But God’s Word tends to sandpaper over them… a lot.

Not surprisingly, we push back. We justify trouble spots in our own lives and shift the tough passages to “worry about later” or “not about me” lists. I know I’m good at that.

A Variation on Psalm 1: Like the Rain

You let rain bead down your nose and don’t
Wipe it away. You like the taste. That Word
Sits heavy in your head, falling out when you
Talk—or don’t. You’re good crazy, the kind
That doesn’t lock the door when it’s cloudy.
You planted a pumpkin in the flower box
On a Sunday afternoon, and now it’s
Growing. You feel like that, growing in
Unexpected places and still—somehow—making
Pumpkins. You God-please.

But a decade ago, you huddled inside away from
The November rain. And yet it still beat against
The window nonstop. You hated it. It hated you.

God didn’t stop the rain. He made you like it.