For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. –Galatians 3:27
For many of us, college is a time in which we answer some important questions about ourselves. What major should I pick? What do I want to do with my life? What moves me? What am I really interested in? What kind of people do I want to be associated with? At the core of these questions, we endeavor to answer a much bigger question: “who am I?” The academic environment offers a wide variety of options to answer this question. You’re an engineer, you’re a pre-med, you’re a liberal, a conservative, a freshman, a jock, a hipster, a non-conformist.
We wear a variety of labels throughout our earthly life in an effort to better communicate to the outside world who we are, or at least who we would like to be. In doing so, we tend to get caught up in those external things which define us by establishing a certain set of rules or limitations. For instance, I am a Steelers fan. Therefore, I cannot possibly be a Browns fan or a Bengals fan. In giving myself this label I have fundamentally removed myself from another and, by extension, other people who do not share my love for Pittsburgh football. Note how we tend to define ourselves by what we are not; we wear labels to set ourselves apart from others in some way.
Think about this label, however: “I am a Christian, a child of God.” As such, you do not define yourself; it is God who defines you. You no longer set yourself apart from your peers on the basis of race, class, ideology or even teams. God sets you apart for his purpose. That purpose is not division, but unity. In our baptism we have been united to Christ in a death like his, sharing then in a resurrection like his. As God’s redeemed children we share in unity not only with Christ, but with every believer who confesses him as Lord over all.
The modern world likes to take this label and try to use it in a similar fashion to those other labels as a tool of division. It lashes out against the new man, raised by Christ, calling him old fashioned, bigoted, hypocritical, judgmental or insensitive. Yet, putting on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, the only thing the Christian is not is damned. The new man stands up in the face of divisiveness and vanity and boldly answers the question: “who am I?”
“I am God’s own child, baptized into Christ! I am a sinner-saint. I am liberated, born again of water and the Word. I am redeemed, forgiven of all my wrong-doing. I am remade in the image of Christ, sharing with all believers the inheritance of his kingdom.”
For in Christ, we are indeed a new creation. We are redeemed children no longer limited by the petty labels of a sinful world. Instead, we do as Paul encourages us in Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” For God has defined us that we would be like him, without blemish or stain and free from sin and death. We are no longer what we once were, but wholly remade in the image of him who loved us enough to bear the cross for us; whose name we now bear.