I would like to think that after leaving the religious system I no longer have any identity issues. There are no organizations, pet doctrines, or ways of doing things that define who I am. My identity is not rooted to my U.S. citizenship, Western lifestyle or any political party, etc, etc. Yet I’m finding that I’m still prejudiced, and prejudice is always rooted in what we identify with.
Part of my identity is that of a non-conformist and an out-of-the-box follower of Christ. As such, I hate religion, especially religion that wears the cloak of Christianity. Hating religion is not the problem. But identifying as a non-religionist causes me to look through colored glasses at those who embrace it.
Recently a good friend recommended a book that explores the subject of Christian brotherhood. It is a deeply thoughtful and insightful writing, and at times, quite inspiring. It speaks directly to an issue that is of paramount importance if authentic Christian community is to exist. Yet I had to work through my prejudice toward the author to receive the message. You may not recognize the name Joseph Ratzinger. How about Pope Benedict XVI? Yep. He wrote Christian Brotherhood many years before becoming pope, but his depth as a theologian contributed to his rise to popedom. Is that a word?
Anyway, my encounter with the little book underlined the fact that my identity as being out of the box put people in one. Prejudice causes one to take sides. It can be in or out, for or against, but always on one side or the other. God sees only the heart and deals with the inward only. The exterior may reveal interior problems, but is of itself, totally unimportant.
When Joshua was preparing to attack Jericho, he encountered the Angel of the Lord. Not recognizing him, Joshua asked him whose side he was on. The Angel answered, “Neither, but as captain of the Lord of hosts I have come.” God doesn’t take sides. He is. Our identity is to be Christ alone. If we take sides, no matter which side we choose, we’ll be coming against him in some area or another.