If someone were to ask me, “Who are you?” The odds are that within my first three statements I would speak of what I “do for a living”. I would probably first give my “label” (“Little Monk”), and then perhaps my “title” (“Minister of Whatever”), and then I’d describe what I “do”, what my “actions and behaviors” are.
Being human, it seems I “construct my identity” out of my control of what I do. I define myself by my choices of act and behavior.
When I woke up the other day, God pointed out that He works things from the exact opposite direction. He gives “Identity” first, “Relationship” first, and THEN… OUT OF THAT… come actions and behaviors.
For example, Adam in the Garden was first given his identity and relationship
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.[Genesis 1:26-31a]
I mean this is no big deep piece of theological or metaphysical writing, just this really neat thing God put down next to my coffee that I found delightful, and I wanted to share with you. But if God really saw this “identity” thing the way I, for one, tend to do… then Mankind’s Principal Identity would not be “Image of God — Joint Heir with Christ”, so much as it would be “Farmer”… (since gardening was our first assigned task and behavior). See the problem here? I did, once the Lord was kind enough (and patient enough) to point it out for me.
Simply that FIRST, God gave man identity and relationship… as His Image… His Creation… and THEN sent him off to tend the garden to work. It was like he discovered ever more of who he was, as he acted and worked through behaviors.
Jesus first and foremost knew who He was and what His relationship with God was (as far back as the finding of the boy Jesus in the Temple at age 12)… and FROM THAT knowledge, He did the will of, spoke the words of, and did the works of His Father. Jesus never seems to have had the experience of “becoming the Son of God”… by the teaching and preaching that He did or the miracles He worked. Everything worked the other direction round.
Even His statement of us, and the Companion Disciples, He commanded that we love one another as He loves us, and that the world would know we were His disciples by the love we showed. He didn’t say or imply that our love would MAKE us His disciples. Simply that our love would be our hallmark, our means of being “recognized” for who and what we are.
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So there you go, Gentle Reader. Just one of those random lovely Roses that the Lord sometimes leaves on the table. You are who you are… Prince/Princess of Kingdom. You have the relationship you do with Him… cherished and beloved beyond imagining or measure. And FROM THAT… can emerge the grace and love of your acts and behaviors. But whether you do that well or badly, His will moves in one direction only.
Our actions don’t “define us”, only He can do that. But when we act rightly in Him, they do indeed help others recognize us, in our right names.
Grace to thee — The Little Monk