Cultural Identity in the Context of Christ

I’ve been confounded with guilt over my heritage lately. I used the word “confounded” because this guilt is something that is inexplicable. It is not an emotion I have observed or adapted from the surrounding culture. It isn’t something that has been preached, taught, or propagated.

But here am I. Feeling guilty. Because for all that I have, all that I take for granted, all that is available to me, there are fathers, mothers, and children all over the world who will never know what it is to have plenty. And yet, so many times, I complain and wish that I had more. A faster computer, a newer car, a bigger travel budget. Material blessings that many people in other countries have never known.

Many times I have wondered why I was born in America. Why God allowed me to grow up in white, middle-class America. I have experienced some painful hardships which sear the soul and scar the memory. But I have never gone hungry, been without at least one parent, or feared death as a disease contracted by birth waged war on my body.

But I see the faces of Haitian children, African babies. Hopeful eyes, white smiles, runny noses, dirt-smudged clothes. And those hunger pangs are a reality. Living without the love of a mother or a father is a reality. Being without medical care as HIV destroys their fragile little bodies is a reality.

And here am I. White American girl. Sitting in a cafe with her coffee, iPhone, laptop, backpack, shoes, sweater, car keys.

Certainly I have trials. And it is not that I believe in minimizing my own heartache, fears, trials. Because in my life here, there is still pain.

But when I read about the joy of orphans half-way across the world who have nothing but live like they have everything, I feel like I am missing something.

Like maybe I have founded my faith on the crumbling foundation of Westernized Christianity rather than on the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ. Maybe I have based my security on the digits of my bank account, the functionality of my car, the love of family and the acceptance of friends, the consistency of a pay check.

Maybe I have never really relied on God at all.

I know that I have. He has broken me and built me up by His grace.

Yet still, I wonder how the faith that I proclaim can co-exist in this culture of materialism, self-sufficiency, ladders of success, and excessive greed.

Who am I?

A sinner rescued. A thief pardoned. An orphan adopted. A slave freed. A criminal redeemed.

But in my world of Facebook statuses, Twitter updates, LinkedIn profiles, Klout scores, I am whoever I declare myself to be. I build myself up to gain accolades, acclaim, acceptance. Thus, living out an identity contrary to the one I proclaim.

An identity hidden in Christ. Not centered in the limelight of my own fading accomplishments. My earthly accolades.

Where moth and rust destroy. Where moth and rust destroy.

My culture teaches that self-sufficiency is the key to satisfaction. Networking, a ladder to success. Constantly climbing, constantly reaching, constantly striving.

But my Creator, who I claim to praise, who I claim to obey, who I dare to call Lord –

He tells me

I am but a mist.

And He cares for me – oh how He cares for me –

But the things of this world will fade.

They will all pass away.

From dust I have come and to dust I will return.

Yet we keep putting our dust on a pedestal. We dress up our dust in suits, lipstick, fancy sports cars, job titles, social media platforms, words and empty promises.

And in all of our masquerading, in all of our chasing after the American dream, the American way, I fear that we have forgotten the Jesus way. The one that commands us to love our enemy, care for the orphaned and widowed, bind up the broken-hearted.

See, we have equated physical blessings with God’s favor.

But Jesus was homeless.

We have deemed suffering as punishment.

But Jesus was slaughtered, the innocent Lamb of God.

We have clung to job titles, prestigious positions, and numbers of followers as our measure of worth and importance.

But Jesus was born in a feeding trough in a cave, rode into town on a donkey, had 12 fisherman for followers, and was murdered by those who claimed to love him.

My guilt is in my hypocrisy. My adherence to a lifestyle in a culture that I do not know how to change, so conform to.

My heart craves material poverty that I may receive spiritual wealth.

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

Have I treasured you, Jesus?

I call you Lord, but do I sound just like a Pharisee? Promoting my own social agenda? My own self-righteousness? My own understanding of You rather than the Biblical testimony of You?

I have used your name in vain. I have blamed you for my own discontentment. While, in fact, the war within is the one you warned us about.

The spirit vs. the flesh.

I pray that the spirit will win. That you will truly be my treasure. That I can see this country, this culture, the one you have placed me in for this season as You see it.

May I embrace each day as another opportunity to discover You. As another opportunity to practice love, mercy, and grace. Another day to choose truth in a world of deceit.

Change this guilt into hope, Lord. May your light cut through the shadows darkness throws.

Because the Treasure of You will not be tarnished by the filth of our dust.


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