Humans were created to live in relationship: first and foremost, in relationship with God, secondly, with each other. Sadly, man’s rebellion against God separates: first and foremost, sin separates humans from God, secondly, from each other. This reality has been apparent throughout all of history. But in the United States, 2016 seems to have ushered in a full-on embrace of societal divisions. Embraced by both the right and the left, identity politics have been the extra fuel needed to cause the melting pot of America to finally boil over. The irony is that the only solution for our growing divisions is an embrace of God’s identity politics.
Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, humans have always acted in direct opposition to their Creator. Beginning with Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God while they were living in the good Garden that He created, humans have sought to usurp God’s will at every turn. After the flood, which was God’s judgment on the sin of the world, humans attempted to build the Tower of Babel with the goal of reaching God and becoming like Him. God, of course, had other plans.
Confounding the languages, God dispersed the people and nations were born. Humans quickly embraced identity politics along ethnic/nationality lines. Wars soon commenced, and people began to value those among them who could wreak the most devastation on the people groups deemed their enemy. Out of this roiling pool of contention and violence, God called Abraham.
One of the most surprising aspects of God’s covenant with Abraham was His declaration that “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). At a time when vital resources were scarce and often hard to acquire and when existence was a day-to-day proposition for many, God promised to bless all the nations. This flew in the face of the conventional wisdom of the time that eschewed concern for outsiders. Tribal loyalties ran deep, and whatever concern one felt for outsiders was directly tied to the possibility of helping your tribe flourish.
Although the Old Testament contains hints and shadows of God’s plan, the mystery of how God planned on blessing the entire world wasn’t revealed until the incarnation of Jesus Christ. One of the things about Jesus that angered the Pharisees was Jesus’ folding of the gentiles into the Kingdom of God. Watching Jesus physically heal gentiles like the daughter of the centurion in Capernaum, the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, and the possessed man in Gerasenes was too much for the ethnically orientated religious leaders to handle. Add the fact that Jesus also declared Gentiles forgiven of their sins, and Jesus had committed a sin worthy of death in the eyes of both the religious and secular leaders of his day.
Revelation 7:9-10 reveals what Jesus was doing, “After this I looked, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”
Jesus is the seed of Adam and Abraham through which God blesses all nations. And faith in him is what ushers people into the identity that will worship God for all eternity.
The question is, of course, am I (or are you) part of God’s kingdom? Or, to put it differently, am I (or are you) identified by faith in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? You see, there are only two identities that ultimately matter—those who have placed their faith in Jesus and those who have not.
All other identity politics that pit humans against each other or attempt to create hierarchies based on gender or ethnicity demonstrate humans’ continued rebellion against God. He has decreed that people from all nations, tribes, and languages are part of His kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ.
For those whose identity is in Jesus Christ, all other boundaries and divisions are erased. Jesus told his disciples that the world “will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The solution to the conflict and vitriol that is ripping the United States apart is Jesus. The only identity that completely heals ethnic, gender, and all other human identity boundaries is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christians should only see two identities: fellow Christians and those who have yet to bow the knee in faith to King Jesus. For Christians, those who have yet to do so are not the enemy, no matter how they may revile those who claim the name of Christ. Even the harshest of persecution is no excuse for Christians to lash out in anger at non-Christians. Through it all, whatever “all” may be, Christians are commanded to introduce non-Christians to Jesus and invite them to place their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.