Today it’s popular to put identity before mission – that is, knowing who you are before deciding what to do.
Theologically speaking, there’s good reason for that. Most folks who talk about spirituality insist that our lives are rooted in our baptismal identity – that is, the question of who we are is answered by our baptism and not by anything else we do or accomplish. Even when we’re too old, too weak, too uneducated or too poor – even if we can’t ‘do’ anything useful at all – we’re still valued members of the Body of Christ. And as a part of the Body of Christ, our identity is secure in knowing that God loves us, God redeems us and God has purpose for our lives. Period.
As nice as this sounds, Christ doesn’t call you to follow him so that you’ll feel better about yourself. And baptism isn’t just a tool designed to help you figure out who you are. Identity is always secondary to mission because God acted to redeem us long before we had sense enough to try and figure out who we are. Our baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is part of a much bigger move of God – a cosmic mission that seeks to rescue creation from its bondage to Death and Sin. Our identity flows out of this mission, not vice versa.
God loves you, but God doesn’t love just you. You’re not redeemed for redemption’s sake, and you’re not blessed for blessing’s sake – the question of who you are has an edge, a direction, a velocity. God loves and seeks to redeem all of creation, and baptism is more than merely a sign of membership in the family of the redeemed. It’s primarily a call to join God’s work, to take the death and life of Christ into our bodies and construct our identity around God’s mission in the world.
In plain English – you don’t have to figure out who you are before you get involved in what God is doing.