One of my favorite scenes in comedy is a scene that takes place toward the end of the movie, Tropic Thunder (2008). This is a crucial element in the storyline when Robert Downey Jr.’s character(s) attempts to get his friend played by Ben Stiller out of a prison. Both of the characters think they are part of a movie and disguised as their characters. What they are coming to realize is that what they are facing is actually real and are trying to come to terms with it and what to do. Forgive the initial vulgarity of this short clip but I promise you will laugh.
Humorous as this scene is, there is a lot of truth behind it.
This week I read an article about someone who called herself an “Orthodox Christian” because she didn’t like the other term “Evangelical Christian.” After listening to her, I found that I agreed with just about everything she said about her faith but wondered why she needed to label herself with the preface ‘Orthodox’. I also attended a conference with a group of people who called themselves “Reformed Christians.” I was asked by some people there of what kind of Christian I am and I said something along the lines that although I am part of the Anglican denomination I am a “Young Life Christian” because it was in the group Young Life where I accepted Christ. I was unsettled about this answer for a few days.
When we turn to scripture we find that the first time a name or label was put on the followers of Christ, it was in the city of Antioch.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:25-26
I am not a bible or church scholar but from what I know, when the church grew and expanded throughout the world, divisions occurred and thus new identities. Here we are 2,000 years later and if someone asks you who you are, you could respond in one of these ways.
- I am an Evangelical Christian
- I am a Southern Baptist Christian
- I am an Orthodox Christian
- I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian
- I am a Catholic Christian
- I am a Reformed Christian
- I am a Coptic Christian
- I am an Anglican Christian
- I am a Young Life Christian
The labels go on and on.
Almost 20 years ago when I first accepted Christ, it seemed so simple and beautiful. I felt a humility and honor to call myself a Christian and by his grace, follow Jesus as best I could. The older I got the more complicated life became. Like Kirk Lazarus, I became a dude, playing a dude disguised as another dude. I am to blame for this because I fell for the trap and forced myself into a corner within the subculture of Christianity to put a very specific label on my faith.
Do you think someone looking in on us as Christians even cares? I am not saying that the specific beliefs or denominations are not important but put yourselves in the shoes of someone who does not know or understand who Jesus is: Our faith looks so divisive and confusing.
Have our descriptors become our titles of pride and nobility? Our idol?
Thankfully, where our heart is, our true identity lay. Our heart that holds the promise of Christ shapes how we truly live our lives no matter what title we give it.
I am trying to not over-simplify life and this topic but what if it is meant to be that simple? Jesus asked the Apostle Peter one of life’s greatest questions,
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16
I pray that everyday I answer like Peter in today’s language, “I am a dude who follows Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What do you call yourself? What have you learned about “identity”?