It’s nothing new, we all have felt the war between what we know is true from the words of God and what the culture says is good and right. Most of the time though it doesn’t affect us directly, usually it is just those other people out there doing something we totally disapprove of. But every once in a while, this battle starts stirring in our own home, among the people we love, even right in the eyes of the little people we’ve known from their first breath.
And then the war becomes real. It’s not just on TV anymore, it’s not a problem other people have to deal with. It’s your fight. It’s your problem. You may know the right answers, but maybe not. You may even see the battle forming in front of you but have no idea how to engage in the fight.
I’m sure it has been different issues throughout the years. But today I’m concerned about my children’s identity. Who they believe they are in their own heart and mind. Who they are in relation to other people. Most importantly who they are in the eyes of God.
And there is more at stake than just being right. As Christians, if we believe in eternal future and an almighty God then a person’s identity matters. As Christians, as we love and care for others, their identity matters. As Christians, as we teach our children and pass their great wisdom to the next generation, their identity matters.
But the problems are many and we only have so much time. I think the biggest challenge we face is to ignore the battle. If you do not recognize that there is something to combat, then you won’t fight. If you can’t see the evil eyes of the enemy, then why would you put up your fists? It’s when we are at peace with this world when we are in the most danger.
Because the forces of evil are not taking it easy. You don’t have to be a theologian or a genius to see that a Christian identity, created by God and a follower of Christ, is under attack in our world. Now we can go on about politics and court cases that make our lives difficult, but more specifically for our children, this attack is launched much earlier in life.
The family is a child’s first experience with who they are and where they belong in this world. But we have all heard the staggering statistics, the number of single parent situations, fatherless homes, mothers who give their children away to be raised by others. There is a radical attempt to redefine what a family even is. No longer do we accept that only a mother and father can raise a child who is born a biological gender. This societal norm invites our children to learn what a man and a woman should be from their experience. What if there is no other voice to speak back to this redefinition of their identity? Why would children reject their experience to define who they are? The culture gets it – and they make no apologies for fighting for the identity of our children.
Then our kids begin to enter into relationships with other outside of the home when they go to school, be it preschool, daycare, kindergarten. Here, more experience will certainly overwhelm them, as they create relationships with a greater circle of peers with a greater circle of experience. But the attack on their identity becomes much more calculated and focused. Curriculum decided on by the institution or government pierces the little rational mind, forming an educational foundation for who our children are. Histories can be changed to produce a narrow set of modern values. Math standards can be altered to reflect a particular philosophy of finding truth. Literature choices can be tailored to speak only certain stories into the souls of our babies. And yes, it can be very subtle. But it is powerful.
It is clear that there is a battle waged against my children and their identity as being created man and woman. It is clear that there is an extra Biblical truth that is fighting for their identity as distinct male and female. But greater than that, there is an attack on how they know anything about themselves. Our kids are encouraged to listen to a truth within. Identity is popularly formed by how one feels about the subject. Comfort exists when one is true to oneself, upholding one’s own desires and feelings especially if it is against an established norm.
The public schools get it – they seduce us into trusting their agenda for the identity of our children.
The climax of the war on identity is our children’s direct conflict with the self. Everything within oneself wants the freedom to do what feels good. Our kids sympathize with arguments about what they think they deserve. Yet, a truth and identity that comes directly from one’s own heart and experience is the complete opposite of how God has created His creatures. So here lies the greatest aggressor, the father of lies, the devil. He knows the battle that wages within. He takes pleasure in drawing God’s children away from the truth of who they have been created to be. He loves to lie and deceive our kids, not simply about sexual partners, but ultimately where they will find love, acceptance and ultimately salvation.
But the Devil gets it – he’s had thousands of years of practice in leading children away from the one true faith.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Romans 1:21, 24-25)
St. Paul exposes this problem of identity. God’s children forgot who they were. Yet they were never neutral. Rather, they exchanged a real identity given to them with something unnatural. They exchanged the truth of God and his gifts for a lie. These beautiful children were filled with unrighteousness in body and soul because they forgot their identity.
Today, it is the same problem that our children battle against. At every turn they are taught to exchange their identity for something less. It may be exchanging the truth for an alternate sexual preference, it may be exchanging the truth for a different god of pleasure to worship, it may be exchanging the truth for the emotional distance needed to carry on in this world.
But it is not only our children that we must worry about. You also have no excuse. You also have exchanged God’s truth for a lie. This answer is not just for the misguided kids who can’t understand a savior, but this is about you. You, who know the boundaries and restraints of the law, you are also in search of your identity.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom 3:10-12)
And I know, this is not the conversation you wanted it to be, it never is. You wanted me to tell you how to change those sinful little kids into obedient followers of the law. You wanted me to rightfully condemn the unbelieving world and show you how to fix the ones you love. You wanted me to tell you how to leave the institutions and create a utopian Christian society where righteousness is in control. But the key to identity is that you aren’t the answer. You aren’t the righteous one. You aren’t the one who can reclaim the identity of your children, or anyone else’s.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. “ (Romans 3:23-24)
Here is the center of our identity and the identity of our children. That ALL have sinned and ALL fall short. And most importantly ALL are justified by Christ, alone. In the battle for identity our culture, our education system, our own sinful desires want us to look directly inside ourselves for the answers. But whether we are following the right way to go, or caught up in a confused mess of sin, no one is righteous, not even one. Not even those of us who try to teach and enforce and model, we are also lost in sin. Rather, the Word of God says identity is a gift given from outside. A gift of new identity is in Christ Jesus.
The Gospel reclaims the identity of our children. Loved and forgiven children of God, we are crucified and risen in the waters of baptism, identified as independent of the confusion and turmoil that churns within. We can only fight to keep them close to the life-giving Words of Christ that continually reclaim the identity of us all.