Not being a bandwagon kind of guy, I prefer (for myself and others) that statements be based on individual thoughts rather than groupthink. I don’t know about you, but it’s not often that I start statements like this:
“Well, as a longtime member of this club, I say we should . . . .”
“As a taxpayer, I demand that . . . .
“As a ____________, I think we have to . . . .
If you begin a statement or demand with an affiliative preface like that, what is mostly likely to fill the blank? What is foremost in informing your philosophy of living? And what does it mean for that thing to be primary?
Depending on the seriousness of the matter, what it comes down to is how we self-identify. What is foremost in your identity? Are you first a husband/wife or father/mother, or daughter/son? Do you identify yourself based on your occupation, e.g., as a teacher, manager, builder, accountant, or chef? Do you think of yourself as a churchgoer? Broader descriptions such as “good citizen” and “good person” may run deeper but also fall short.
It was recently suggested that I could “detach”; I took it that I was seen as too personally involved. The tenor and direction of another conversation surprised me, and the use of a simple phrase revealed a possible difference in operating paradigms. In both cases, it seems to me, it was assumed that one could be someone different in one setting than he is in another. I’ve detected this distinction before, and I’m keenly aware of its depth and breadth. While the difference might go no further than shading opinions, it can also be pervasive and far-reaching. It has to do with what is foremost in our hearts and minds as we self-identify. What affiliation primarily determines our thoughts and courses of action?
Some of us have particularly strong family identities. Did your parents send you out the door to school with the exhortation, “Remember, you’re a Robertson?” After that, do you think of yourself primarily an employee—one who thinks and acts first as a servant of the employer? If you have ever been active in the military, you might tend to identify yourself foremost as a soldier. (I gather there is often a kind of pride in that, and it tends to take precedence over other life-aspects and affiliations.) Are you an artist, an introvert, an entrepreneur? These things may be very important in your self-identification, but are they first for you? Or are you, first, a friend? (Now we’re getting somewhere.)
Many would identify self in terms of country. They would say they are, primarily, Americans (or Argentinians or Greeks or Ghanaians or Iranians or Indonesians). I heard a speech recently that seemed to assume that any American would be, first and foremost, an American.
Not so for the Christian. Not first, anyway.
The loyalty to Jesus Christ, and identification with Him, will not erase all the other identifications. A Christian may still be an American and a daughter and an employee. But the Christian is, foremost and forever, a Christian. That should trump everything else (when we are at our best).