In a world of free-agency, trades, and extensive player movement, it is becoming increasingly rare to see great players stay with one team for their entire careers. I remember seeing Joe Namath in a Rams uniform, Johnny Unitas in a Chargers uniform, and Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform. It just looked and felt really strange. Why? Because Johnny U was a Colt! He wasn’t a Charger, and it was unsettling to see one of the all-time greats separated from the team identification that had become so much a part of his lore and legend. The same thing has been true this past year as long-time Colt Peyton Manning switched horses and became a Bronco. No matter how many times I’ve seen him in that orange uniform, it seemed so out of place that he was not in the blue and white of Indianapolis. In reality, however, Manning is neither a Colt nor a Bronco. He is Peyton Manning. His identity as a person is not limited to the team he plays for, the uniform he wears, or the products he advertises. His identity rises far above what he does or where he does it.
This concept of identity is one of the most subtle and challenging in the Christian experience. There is a sense in which, because the believer is “in Christ,” that they now have a new identity that is wrapped up in the Savior. In a similar way, when a couple get married, they are no longer entirely individual. They now have a shared identity through the life they have embraced together in marriage. Even more, the followers of Christ are no longer identified only as themselves, but their identity has been transformed by the redeeming work of Christ. This work is seen in several ways:
- New Person. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
- New Position. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
- New Purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
The key, of course, is that we are now “in Christ.” No longer do we live our lives identified by our profession, work, successes, failures, or familial ties. We are identified with the One whose life is now our life, whose sacrifice is our payment, and whose character is now to shape our character.
Far from being a threat to our identity as human beings, identity in Christ allows us to become all that we were created to be—children of the Creator and those in whom His heart and life dwell. If we look for our identity anywhere else, we will always find ourselves sadly dissatisfied.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain