Originally published Tuesday, 21 January 2014.
"You are so annoying!" I recently heard one of my sons yell to the other.
We learn at an early age the power of words. Especially when it comes to name calling. In our homeschool Language Arts, my oldest is learning how to diagram sentences. He learned that when we say that one thing is something else, i.e. "You are annoying" we are renaming it. (Technically, it's called a predicate nominative for my English loving friends:). When my son yelled those harsh words to his brother, he renamed him Annoying.
I've been renamed numerous times in my life. Ugly. Fat. Dumb. Mediocre. Useless. Sometimes these names were given to me, like the way my children grant such names to each other. Other times these names are ones I inferred upon myself. Like every time I visited one of my grandparents and they commented on my weight. Over time, I took on the name Fatso as my identity. Or the way every teacher I ever had commented on my quietness in school. I began to see my quietness and introversion as wrong and bad.
These names become who we are. They define us and identify us. As a mother automatically turns her head when she hears someone in a crowd yell "Mom!" we automatically respond to those names.
I've longed to get a do-over. A complete makeover where I transform into someone else and shed those names altogether. So I wonder, is it possible to get a new identity? Like someone who goes into witness protection, can I get a new name, new background, and a new life? Could it be possible for me to walk into a room, have a conversation with someone and not hear them calling me Worthless and Unloveable?
Yes, but there's only one way. It can't come by playing dress up and pretending to be someone else. It can't come by covering up our identity, nor by denying it or minimizing it. Our new identity has to be given to us by our Maker, by the one who created us to begin with.
Jesus came to do just that.
Just as a bride takes on a new last name and receives a new identity as wife, Jesus is our Bridegroom who came so that his identity might become ours. In fact, he took on and became our old names for us. He entered into the shame of our lives. He reached out to those with names like Useless, Ugly, and Unwanted. He walked among the outcasts, the sinners, and the rejects of this world. He touched the untouchable. He dined with the lonely and useless. He healed the weak and wounded. He was rejected, scorned, and disregarded for our sakes. He was brought outside the camp, where the rejects and despised lived, and hung on a tree, sacrificing himself for the shamed, sinful, and guilty. As he took on our sin and shame upon the cross, he took our names and identities with him. While he was spat upon and rejected by the crowds, he endured the greatest rejection when God the Father turned his back on him.
But he did so that we might be renamed for one final time.
"He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:3-5).
"For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me" (Psalm 69:7-9).
Because of Christ, our identity is no longer wrapped up in what we've done, what's been done to us, who we resemble, what side of the tracks we're from, our successes or failures. No longer on the sidelines waiting to be picked, we are now on the winning team. We are no longer orphans, cast aside with nowhere to call home, but children of the one true God. Jesus now calls us family. "Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters" (Hebrews 2:11).
Just as God declared over Christ in the river Jordan, "This is my son and with him I am well pleased" he declares over us in the river of Christ's shed blood, "This is my child with whom I am well pleased." God looks at us and no longer sees the name "Sinner" but the name "Redeemed." Jesus stands for us in the court of heaven and says, "I have paid the price" and the Judge pronounces us not-guilty. We are new creations, spotless, untainted, righteous and holy. This is our new identity.
"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Do you know that you have a new identity in Christ? All those names you've been called, all those names you've taken upon yourself, all that shame and isolation, have died with Christ. And with him has risen a new identity, a new name, and a new story.
From "I will change your name" by Eden's Bridge:
I will change your name
You shall no longer be called
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid
I will change your name
Your new name shall be
Confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one
Faithfulness, friend of God
One who seeks My face