How Jesus Dealt With Identity Politics

This might hurt a little, because most of us are guilty as charged.

In our modern-day tribalism, we all withdraw to our corners, looking for others who think like us, look like us. And together, we stand against those who are not like us, presuming them to be enemies.

We do this by color.

We do this by ideology.

We do this by political persuasion.

We do this by religion.

Some tribalism is natural, an extension of our cultural bonds, familial relationships and personal experience.

But identity politics takes a sharp turn away from this.

Everyone wants to be the oppressed group so we can demand our say. We almost crave to be marginalized, ostracized and persecuted.

No one wants to be in the majority

It’s almost a sport being a victim. And the medals we wear with pride.

No wants to be the majority anymore. Look, I’m right there with you. I’m white. I’m male. I’m Christian. And every day I’m longing for my own special tribe, my special group of people that will fit into a minority.

The political season will ramp up the identity politics pitch. Every commercial and mailing will try to carve out a segment of society and make them the victim.

It works for a while, as the victims rise up and shake their fist at the system. Eventually, some will realize that they have been used, even manipulated.

Pandering is the shortest trip to likability, but it has the shortest rope. Make me feel good by meeting my felt needs, but once I realize the insincerity I check out pretty quickly.

Blue Man GroupPhoto by David Rupert of the Blue Man Group — definitely an identifiable group

We are all one in Jesus’ eyes

But look at how Jesus dealt with “identity.”

He had a rich, young ruler come to him with questions. He counseled a member of the Roman Guard. He had businessmen and religious folks seek his counsel. He was good friends with a prostitute. He drank wine with a tax swindler. His inner circle had a thinker rubbing elbows with a wild-eyed revolutionary and a fisherman.

Every single time someone’s “identity” was presented to him, he brushed it aside and instead embraced the person.

However, it seems he gave special preference to the children.  And he recognized the special needs of the woman who touched his robe, her finger trembling with pain. And to the man in the tree trying to get a look. And to the man who was trying to crawl to the healing waters.

But in every one of these situation, he didn’t perpetuate their class, rather he raised them up into a class of their own – which is the class of His own.

Our identity is in Christ.

Paul, the man with the many credentials, had this to say about identity.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ, counting it as rubbish, for the sake of the Gospel. “

He also dealt with a stubborn Galatian church that was fighting between Jewish convert and Gentile convert, each claiming to have a better insight, a better salvation. The Gentiles were pushing pork chops and the Jews were pushing circumcision. Paul said, “enough.”

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

That was the beauty of the church – and now. We all come together not to gain something, but to lose everything.

We give up disabilities and our abilities.

We give up our riches and our poverty.

We give up our class and our race.

We give it all up and take on a new identity.

Identity politics
Photo by Malena Roberts, with permission

Turn our backs on the identity game

We should stand apart from the whole identity process. We are neither black or white, left or right, Democrat or Republican, gay or straight. We are not libertarian or socialist or any other group that society tries to herd us into and tell us how we ought to think, what we ought to say, how we ought to vote, how we can worship.

When we are tempted to be categorized, we need to turn our backs on the modern game of choosing sides.

Refuse to play ball. Oppose everything about it.

And when the culture presses because we won’t engage, we’ll double down.

“I’m with Him.”

That’s our identity. That’s all we’ll ever need.

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