The phrase identity theft was not part of the English language until 1964, oddly the year I was born. Since that time, the definition of identity theft has been defined as the theft of personally identifying information, generally including a person’s name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, bank account or credit card numbers, pin numbers, electronic signatures, fingerprints, passwords, or any other information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources. In 2017 there were 16.7 million cases of identity theft in the United States. According to studies, identity theft recovery takes an average of 6 months and 100 to 200 hours-worth of work. That’s’ a lot of time to get your life back and recover your identity.
While as painful it is to have your identity stolen it is worse to lose your identity all together. In our world it easy to forget who we are. From the moment we are born the world will begin to try to define us and tell us who we are. Then for the rest of our lives, labels are placed on us that remind us and everyone else who we are. While some labels are welcomed and bring much joy like father, son, daughter, spouse, and friend; others however, can wound us. These negative labels can inflict a lot of pain and the list is endless: ugly, stupid, failure, loser, fat, slow, pathetic, freak, useless. There are a lot more labels that can be added to this list. Labeled enough, over time we accept them for just who we are. Our identity is stolen. Our identity is lost, and we forget who we are.
The good news of the Gospel is that our identity is ultimately given to us by God. The apostle John, in the first letter that bears his name writes, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1) Our identity comes not from a broken and sinful creation, but from a loving Creator God. Every person is a child of God regardless of what label the world places on us. Our identity is born out of God’s love who sees us as “wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
When we begin to trust this truth then we can begin to see those around us as children of God, wonderfully made in all their uniqueness. Every life is of value and worth because every life is a gift of the Creator. The late Christian writer Henri Nouwen said it this way:
Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.
So, let us encourage one another and build one another up as God’s children. The world does enough tearing people down and stealing their identity. In Jesus, however, we can know exactly who we are; beloved daughters and sons of God.