It’s been said, and is true, that we live in an upside down world. Upside down, according to God’s ways, that is. The world tells us we have to take care of ourselves; God tells us to cast all of our cares upon Him. The world teaches us that happiness is found in material things, and the bigger, the better. God teaches us that life is found in giving, even sacrificially, to those in need. The world says we must live it up before we die. Jesus showed us it is in dying that we truly live.
The world would have us believe we are what we do, that our actions determine our identity. But God has created us to be, before we do. He intended our identity to determine our actions. We are human beings, not human doings. When we get it backward, it can cause problems. One example of this is seen in Jesus’ calling of His disciples. He began with Peter and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen by trade. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt. 4:19) Peter and Andrew were considered fishermen because that was what they did. Their identity flowed from their actions, their livelihood. But Jesus wanted to turn that around and get it in the right order.
His first call to them was to come and follow Him. In other words, be with Him, for a prolonged period of time. He wanted them to be with Him so they could learn from Him, to watch Him in action. When we spend time with people, who they are rubs off on us. We are influenced by their lives, whether good or bad. We become what we behold. God wired us this way so that we could be transformed by our relationship with Him, to become like Him.
After Jesus called them to be with Him, He then told them He would give them something to do – go out and fish for people. He didn’t command them to go and make disciples until they first became disciples. Yet, we often do that to people in the Church. We tell them to go and be a witness, but many have never witnessed the reality of who God is. We will never be transformed by reading or learning about the Lord. We will always be transformed by being with Him, spending time in His presence and with others who have been transformed.
We must live the message before we can give the message. We must first be transformed before God can fully use us to transform others. We must be with Him on a personal level, not just in corporate meetings, to know Him as He wants to be known. Before becoming His disciples, Peter, Andrew and the others were known for what they did – fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Their livelihood determined their identity. But after Jesus’ resurrection, they became known as those who had been with Him, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Their identity determined their actions.
When our identity is determined by what we do, we become performance driven. Our lives are characterized by people pleasing, perfectionism and insecurity. If our doing determines our identity, we believe our value and signficance come from what we do, and how well we do it. We compare ourselves to others because there will always be those who do it better. We become jealous, insecure, and fearful that we will lose our value if we don’t keep up the appearance of doing something well.
When our actions flow from our identity, we realize that though others may have similar callings, we are unique and therefore, secure in who we are as God’s beloved child. We aren’t driven to perform and maintain appearances, because our doing naturally flows from our being. There really is no effort involved beyond being with Him. We can freely give out of the overflow of what He gives to us. We don’t have to be chided to go and be witnesses, because who we are as transformed people will rub off on those we spend time with.
The world tells us that doing precedes being, that we are what we do. But the kingdom of God teaches that we do what we are. We honor and glorify our Lord when we are human beings, as He created and intended us to be, rather than human doings. If we just spend time with Him, He will take care of the rest.