Who do you say that I am?
Who do I present myself to be?
What do I represent?
I have been faced with some of these style questions recently as I stare the unfortunate side of the right wing in the face. I was scheduled to speak at a youth camp in July until I received a phone call on Thursday afternoon. The voice on the other end greeted me kindly as we got right to the point of the conversation. He said that one of the youth pastors that was scheduled to bring his students up for that week had googled me and come across my Facebook page. While riding the digital wave through my publicly listed “personal” information he was able to see that I have tattoos and he also found some pictures of me with a beer in my hand, which wasn’t shocking considering my personal interest in the taste of the beverage. My friend from the camp then asked “what are your thoughts”? “Well” I replied, “I have the option to keep the information that Facebook holds private and I choose to keep it public, for every eye to see. If I thought drinking beer was sin, I probably wouldn’t do it”. I then expressed more of a theological stance on my freedom in Christ and responsibility to His expectations, not a youth pastor’s. After about ten minutes of conversation on the topic, he broke it down for me… the camp chose his youth group over me.
Obviously frustrated, I thought it was at least fair to speak with the youth pastor and give him the option to actually meet me as opposed to assuming things about me from a still frame. I checked my heart and made sure that I wasn’t calling this guy to just be prideful or that I wasn’t fully angry in my heart. After playing a little baby round of tag, he called me and we spoke for an hour and a half. This was truly one of the most interesting conversations I have ever been a part of, and I’ve been involved in my fair share of conversation. My new friend and I couldn’t be on more opposite ends of the spectrum. He is a clean cut 33 year old, married, youth pastor with three kids, no tattoo’s and a personal conviction to not consume alcohol, ever. And, well I’m… me. A 27 year old single dude, pursuing ministry, I do not have any kids, I nearly have as many tattoos as I have years to my life and I personally prefer the taste of beer over that of soda.
Beyond our personal convictions, this was his major concern: he was not comfortable exposing his kids to someone who represents what I represent. This is verbatim from our conversation. I tried to explain to him that I strive to represent Christ the same way he does and although we agreed on literally every foundational issue, Jesus as savior, grace as a gift, the wickedness of our human hearts, etc. What has separated us from being working limbs attached to one body is opinion, the same outward focused, rule based, regulatory system that Jesus came to abolish.
Our identity is not our image.
Our identity is where our heart finds its comfort, fulfillment and strength to move forward.
Our image is the demographic that we are able to share our identity with.
Form your identity in self sacrifice to the Lord, obedience to the Gospel and faithfulness to your brothers and sisters.
…If you’d like to answer the three questions posed at the beginning, I’m really interested in knowing the answers; it’s easy for me to think that I represent Christ but if you don’t, then I might need more help than I give myself credit for…
ROMANS twelve:one through eight
dennis alan gable jr.