by Pastor Nick Mance
“I am an athlete.”
“I go to LD.”
“I’m in orchestra.”
“I am a straight A student.”
“I am the middle child.”
“I am a hard worker.”
“I am kind.”
“I am from Hershey.”
“I have 1,598 Instagram followers.”
These are just a few of the phrases that students use to identify who they are. They can be representative of physical characteristics, gender and sexuality, academic performance, athletic prowess, where they live, social media influence, family dynamics, and much more. The reality we are faced with is that students (and arguably our entire society) are basing their identity in things, characteristics, and formulas that are ever-changing and at their core do not actually define who we are as individuals.
As parents and leaders, we have an obligation to help shape, prepare, and guide our children and students in a biblical worldview and understanding of identity (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). If you find yourself asking, “When should we start?” or, “Is my child old enough?” the answers are now and yes. Our students are being presented with radical identity issues even before kindergarten, and we must be training them from the youngest of ages on who they are in Christ so that can shape their worldview and allow for them to reach an ever-changing culture for Jesus. But the questions are what do we do and how do we do it?
A few quick notes: First, know this isn’t a one-off conversation. Don’t think this can be relegated to a single talk with your student after school or before bed. This is a continual conversation between you as parents and your children. Continue to have these conversations. Second, understand that even if your children are older, you can still have these conversations, and yes, start them if you haven’t. It is better to start late than not at all. Third, be authentic and honest with your kids, and be willing to listen. Let them know if you have struggled with who you are, and seek to understand their pressures. The stimuli they are receiving are vast and rapid, and because of this bombardment we must understand that we have to be the voice of truth, peace, and calm in their lives as we represent Jesus. Hear their pushback and questions, don’t respond with “Because I said so,” point them to truth, and affirm them for wanting to make their faith their own.
So what do we do? We present and represent the biblical model of identity to our families. We must start by understanding that we are broken and sinful people. Look back at the story of the Fall in Genesis 3, and look at how humankind messed up, lied to God, tried to get out of the situation, and God offered forgiveness. In doing this, it sets the tone for our foundational relationship with Jesus. In Genesis 3, God set forgiveness, grace, and redemption in motion to help us better understand the need for a Savior and a relationship with him. This is a great starting point to highlight where our identity lies.
Begin to explain that throughout Scripture we see that our identity is in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and not in any identifying characteristic or trait the world ascribes to us. This is not us trying to alienate ourselves from the world, but allowing for there to be freedom for us to live as new creations identified by Christ and Christ alone. 1 Peter 2:9 describes who we are in Christ, and it has nothing to do with academic performance, athletic prowess, social status, the amount of social media followers we have, or the beauty standards of society. Instead it radically alters how we view ourselves. These passages allow for you to speak truth to your students and point them towards the understanding that all the burdens society places on them are not theirs to carry. Instead when they find their identity in Christ it brings wholeness, freedom, and peace.
We do this by engaging in loving and grace-filled conversations, by pointing our students to truth, by continuing to invest in their lives, and by modeling what it means to live with Jesus, love like Jesus, and lead others to do the same. This isn’t a foolproof model. There isn’t one. There will be hard conversations, tears shed, and hurt feelings. But in all things we model Christ, and just as God asked hard questions, pointed out truth, forgave and restored in Genesis 3, that is our model.
- Identity: Questions and Answers
- The Search for Identity
- Identity in Christ in the Midst of Snaps and Selfies
- Kids, Sexual Identity, and Social Media
- Our Identity in Christ