Identity as a Citizen

One of the amazing things about being a Christian is the gift of community. No matter where we may be from, or what we do in our day-to-day lives, there is something spectacular about the hope, encouragement, and love that is shared when like-minded men and women choose to gather together regularly. In London, my wife and I host a weekly community group at our home. Over the past few weeks, we have been going through the Citizen Study Guide trying to define the question, “what does it look like to be a citizen today?” We strive to spend each week praying for the needs of our group, discussing the ideas that we believe God is pointing out to us in Citizen, and encouraging one another to step out in boldness with their faith.

This time together leads us to different realisations about our individual walks with God. We see areas where we feel ok about where we are, areas where we need to grow, and many areas that we had no idea existed! But overall, we enjoy the time spent together as believers.

One of the biggest discussions we have had revolves around the idea of identity. As Christians, we take on a new identity than the one with which we were born. The gospel transforms us into new creations. But the trouble is, we have a hard time remembering this truth. It is easy to be comfortable with how we have lived in the past because it has passed. There is nothing we can do about it, and we even look back at some situations and think that whatever happened wasn’t all that bad.

For example, I spent a couple of years working for a university ministry in Athens, Greece. While there, I spent a lot of time walking up to students on campus and attempting to strike up conversations (mind you in Greek-English) with the hopes of getting to know them and have a spiritual conversation. It sounds like a nightmare, and I assure you, at times, it felt like it. But looking back, I realise that it was not all that bad. I never got yelled at, told to leave, or even made fun of (to my face). This is not the strategy we take in London, and I am not sure if it would even work. But as I have thought about trying it here, I get scared because from what I understand it is out of the norm for England.

There is a difficulty that comes when we desire to change how we act in the future. If our desire is to be bolder in sharing our faith, we don’t know if people will think we are weird, if we will get made fun of, or if we may even lose the connection with that close friend who we desire to come to know Jesus. It is this unknown that is scary. We cannot control the outcome if we step out in faith. We cannot know how one will respond to us forging our new identity that looks radically different from how we have acted in the past.

But really, we are not forging a new identity. We are growing into one that has already been created by Jesus. I appreciate this about Citizen’s chapter on identity. We are asked to take hold of an identity that is given to us through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And through this we are challenged to realise our citizenship and live according to God’s will and mission, not our own comfort, control, or fear.

Joel Peabody is a staff team member at Awaken Movement UK. He currently lives in Wanstead, London, UK with his wife, Allison, working to help plant a movement of kingdom disciples who desire to live missionally in their community.