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Identity as a new creation

Summer is almost here but do you know when it begins officially, by the calendar? That’s right, Thursday, June 21.

I suspect for many of us there are other “markers” that summer has arrived, regardless of the official date.

Our senior Connersville High School students walked up the aisle Sunday at their commencement program and received their diplomas.

That means school’s out and that is always a sign of summer.

Some of us think summer has arrived when, after nine months of eating hot house tomatoes, we get a home-grown tomato, slapped on fresh bread, spread with mayonnaise, then layered with bacon and topped with fresh lettuce.

For many, summer means vacation as they take those planned family trips to visit relatives or to places they are familiar or unfamiliar with.

Sometimes summer is marked by attendance variances at our churches.

No matter what turns us on, it says something about our identity. But there’s much more to identity.

It is amazing how much identity theft goes on for Christians in today’s world. Our foundational and primary identity is to be a child of God but there is so much involved in contemporary living that can impact that identity.

Friends, we all have an eternal soul that is built to last. With our cooperation, the Holy Spirit will help shape us and grow us spiritually throughout our lives.

Apostle Paul offers some true insight to our Christ-like identity in II Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV), “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. Be reconciled to God.”

This means when we, using Paul’s language, “regard” others, we regard them as God regards them, which is as a beloved new creation.

That person who broke your trust, that person who rubs you the wrong way, that person who is radically different from you in age, stage in life, sexual orientation, politics, income, nation of origin, immigration status, race or language, if you are in Christ, you are to see and act toward them as God does, as one of God’s creations.

And here’s the beauty when we do this corporately, what a living, breathing body of Christ on earth we become. This world is filled with all kinds of hurtful “isms” that only the love of Christians can defeat.

Even in the church, it’s not always easy, is it? There are always people, who are to us, known as “extra grace required” people.

But it is possible to be in this beloved community, shaping the world with Christ’s own love and justice. It can happen and it can be done in our lives, but not by us alone.

Paul is clear in his passage that such ministry of reconciliation and viewing of others is “no longer from a human point of view” but is from God. You see, we can only regard others as God does, upon our becoming new creations in Christ.

And that’s hard for a lot of us because it involves surrender, our surrender of pride, the need to control, to win and to hold onto the power of not forgiving someone. It’s hard because it means giving up those habits, attitudes and categorizations of others without even getting to know them that arise from our old sinful ways. You know, the ways of the old creation in our lives, the ways of prejudice, spitefulness, grudge-bearing, power-seeking and close-minded ways.

To be a new creation in Christ means admitting and surrendering all of that to Christ and constantly inviting the Holy Spirit to do a serious “attitude check” to help rid our hearts of those detestable attitudes. This helps us to see others as new creations too.

Living like this individually and corporately colors our world with the love of Christ and doing so moves us more deeply and closer to the ultimate new creation.

Here’s the grace note: it’s the greatest, most significant way to live life, loving God, loving all, and freed from seeking to find security and identity in all the wrong places.

Jesus showed it can be done. The Holy Spirit is with us to help us. It can be in your life too, even today, even now.

Eric Hopkins is an associate minister of Growing Branches of Christ Ministries and wrote this article as a member of the Fayette County Ministerial Association.