Shallow Christian identities

By Dave Henning / August 17, 2023

“Shallow Christian identities . . . [come] because it is not Christ’s love but the world’s power, approval, comfort, and control that are the real roots of our self-identity.”- Timothy Keller

“And [Jonah] said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land — he is the one I fear.”- Jonah 1:9

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 4 of The Prodigal Prophet as he explains three shallow Christian identities.

1.  Spiritually shallow identity.  When the sailors cast lots and the lots pointed the finger at Jonah, he finally issued a response.  Most significantly, in a text so sparing with words, Jonah first states his race and nationality.  Thus, his identity as a Hebrew trumps his faith in God.  In addition, Jonah chooses to support his nation over the opportunity to proclaim God’s love and mission to Nineveh.

2.  A self-blinding identity.  A shallow identity, Pastor Keller states, keeps us from truly seeing ourselves.  Take Jonah, a prophet of God with a privileged position in the covenant community.  Yet, at every turn he acts obtuse, self-absorbed, bigoted, and foolish.  And, more than anyone around him, he seems blind to his flaws.

Consequently, such an identity yields two results:

  • blindness to one’s real self – you deny the depth of your shortcomings when you base your identity on any kind of achievement, goodness, or virtue.
  • hostility, rather than respect, for people who are different – hence, you reinforce your achievement and performance by contrasting yourself with — and displaying hostility to — those who are different.

 3.  An excluding identity.  When you place people in the Other category, you focus on why they differ from you.  Furthermore, as you hone in on their strangeness, you reduce them to their traits.  Essentially, you dehumanize them.

As a result, this makes it possible to exclude them.  Therefore, you simply ignore them and force them to conform to your beliefs and practices.

But under the power of God’s grace, your identity can change.

Today’s question: What Bible verses most help you move beyond shallow Christian identities?  Please share.

Special note: today Crown passed the one million visitor mark; as Bach signed all his music, Soli Deo Gloria!

Tomorrow’s blog: “Spiritually coming to one’s senses”

About the author

Dave Henning

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