Dale Appleby

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In last week’s blog I put forward the biblical view that our identity is formed by our relationships, in the first place in relationship with our Creator and essentially in our relationship with Christ.

Our primary identity is as children of God because we are in Christ and have been given the Spirit of the Son so that we call God our Father.

Does this mean that our other identity markers have been abolished? That male and female distinctions no longer apply? Does it mean that the Bible was way ahead of the progressives and we didn’t know it?

The Bible is quite clear, as Jesus reminded us, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,” (Matt 19.4). However Jesus continued the quotation from Genesis, “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

Here is the paradox of distinction and unity. Male and female are different. But in the one flesh of marriage they are one. Paul regarded this as a profound pointer to the unity of Christ and the church (Eph 5.32). Which brings us back to our primary identity marker – who is Christ. But in the unity we have with Christ and with each other we also have many distinctions that Paul likens to the different parts of the body. Each with its own role. But roles within one body, who is Christ (1 Cor 12.12).

All of this depends on God. He has made us. He has brought us to Christ. He has destined us to be like his Son. In the various debates about human identity and human rights the place of God is crucial.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States declares that “… all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,…? The strength of this particular declaration is that it bases this claim on what it asserts is the gift of the Creator.

On the other hand the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” (Art 1). The first sentence is clearly not true for large numbers of people. The second sentence doesn’t say where the endowment comes from, nor does it give a basis for the “should”.

It is not surprising that “human rights” are so poorly respected. There is no real basis for them outside the revelation of God. Like all humanistic assertions they are subject to the power plays of competing interests. Sometimes subject to military power. Sometimes subject to economic power. Sometimes subject to social power. Not just human rights, traditional beliefs and practices will continue to be destroyed as long as God is kept out of our thought world.

In the face of continuing attacks on biblical views of human identity we can be encouraged that since the Creator God has created us to be in relationship with him, it will make much more sense in the real world to live that way. Those who live in the presence of the living God and have his Spirit in them will stand out in a lost and confused world. Often being attacked, but also offering hope of a life that matches the purpose for which we were made. We can keep the light of God shining. Together.



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