The pursuit of self-discovery can exhaust and distort the identity believers find hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4). Confusion can be further magnified with poor theological understanding and twisted interpretations of Scripture and can result in weakening the spiritual health and discipleship of women in the church.
Not that long ago I sat under teaching at a woman’s event that proclaimed our need to wake up every morning and declare, out loud, the words “I am fabulous!” It was an affirmation that, when declared, would empower me to do anything for God that I set my mind to. Mixed with scripture and the emotion of her presentation it was quite compelling, and I could see others in the room, who weren’t used to hearing such thinking, being drawn in.
Scripture overflows with descriptions of a new life in Christ that helps define our identity and reason for existence. Paul points out in Corinthians that believers—those identified in Christ—are all being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the same image, and that position comes with privilege and responsibility. It reads,
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
Well-meaning women have attempted to bring meaning to their lives by using Scriptures like this to claim an identity, but one that tends to be used for personal gain, declared independent of others, or reflective of themselves through self-discovery methodology or personal affirmations.
Our identities in Christ are not self-seeking or a self-declaring means to live a purposeful life.
Our identity in Christ is to reflect God’s glory in and through our lives and to be used for His purpose, for His glory and for His Kingdom work!
The Bible also teaches that our identity in Christ is the same as one another’s and can be better summarized with a list of ‘we are’ in Christ rather than a list of ‘I am’ statements women are often resourced with. We are blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed and forgiven (Eph. 1), and we are all being transformed into the same image. This is not a competitive, independent self-declaring identity meant to help women feel better about themselves, bring purpose to their days or cause them to be brave or stand alone.
A woman’s identity is found in Christ for His glory, alone (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Col. 1:27).
Unfortunately we have been further encouraged to clarify and claim our individuality, our strengths, our weaknesses, our preferred expressions or default tendencies wrapped-up in a label or well-intended classification. These practices have the real possibility of distorting Christ’s redemptive purpose for our sin-filled state by personalizing or individualizing a false understanding of being identified in Christ.
We exist to understand God’s glory and to share that glory with others (Col. 1:27-28).
Furthermore, too many women in the church are deceived into thinking that their Biblical identity is only useful if it leads to a leadership role, seen as part of a cause greater than themselves or portrayed as part of a social media platform. Imaging, branding and personal platform building does not build the church.
Although those areas can be effective in our culture today, ministry to women must educate women with sound doctrine and encourage women to work alongside one another for the purpose of building up the church for evangelism and discipleship. It must do this rather than develop personalized, independent platforms that can compete for effectiveness, create isolation or reflect a glory that only belongs to God.
Our identity in Christ is for the sake of our unity in Christ—as one body—the church (1 Cor. 12:27).
The identity craved is the identity we have already been given in Jesus (Eph. 5)! And, while God can uniquely and creatively use women’s lives in different platforms of influence for His purpose, the identity we all share should unite us, rather than divide us or confuse us to think that an identity in Christ is meant for the purpose of self-discovery or personal gain (Eph. 4).