Our true identity
By Jackie Morfesis and John G. Panagiotou
In a time of focus upon identity and even shifting identities, as Christians, our truest identity is worth meditating upon. My ancestors have been Orthodox Christian for generations upon generations. My identity as a Greek American and Orthodox Christian was always seamlessly woven into every aspect of my life — spiritually, culturally, ethnically, academically, creatively and socially — from my birth.
And yet, I felt a powerful calling that demanded exploration. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Something so profoundly deep and aching in my soul that I could not even articulate began to take place.
My path crossed with that of Christians who became my spiritual mentors, guides and teachers. I was drawn to reach out to other Christian communities, leaving my comfort zone, and to be exposed to and enriched by their traditions, knowledge and understanding. I began to hunger deeply for God’s holy Word. I began to understand my purpose in working for the kingdom. Indeed, God drew me near to learn what He wanted me to learn. I was duly reminded that we are baptized in Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). And my fire for God grew and grew.
I met Christians whose passion for God overflowed with fierce devotion. Christians who healed in Jesus’ name. Whose trust in God was courageous. And whose surrender to God was pure intimacy. I saw and experienced God’s hand moving over His children, their parishes and the communities they served with a fervor and conviction that was radical and transformative. I was witness to the power of the Holy Spirit just as it was given to the disciples at Pentecost, and the beautiful Greek word, evangelical, inhabited the hearts of believers.
It was reconfirmation that God is moving right here, right now, in the present, and that we still serve a God of miracles. That not only the clergy, hierarchy and appointed leaders of our respective churches but every single one of us is called to be a disciple of Christ and every single one of us is called to do His work right here on earth.
When God moves in our lives, He moves with both mystery and boldness. It is fearsome to behold, and I can only describe it as a hurricane on my soul. But it is a hurricane whose purpose is not to leave a devastating trail of destruction but a razing to the ground so that something much greater and magnificent can be built. “He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).
I know who I am — my true identity, my core identity. I am a child of God. “For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). He has plans for me. Plans to prosper not harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). He has a plan and purpose for us all. And to fulfill His purpose, we must be open to growing in spirit wherever that may lead us. It does not diminish or take away from our traditional or personal faith walk; it enriches and blesses us. I am ready to be the person that He intended me to be all along, for His glory.
John G. Panagiotou
And Jesus answered them, “For whomever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). This verse can sound very perplexing to the casual hearer. It goes counter to the very basic norms that we were taught to believe by society. Yet these words should resonate with us in a way that, especially during this contemporary time, should radically reevaluate and shape who we are as children of the living God.
Too often, people identify themselves by ethnicity, culture, language, nationality, socio-economics and even by religious affiliation. When we read and hear the Holy Scriptures, we are told of a new identity in Christ, one that is not predicated on any of the above-mentioned things that the world uses as a measuring stick.
Being “in Christ,” as the Apostle Paul teaches, is about being rooted and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform you into who you are meant to be in the image and likeness of God Himself. This is what the church fathers would come to refer to as theosis, which is a process of spiritual renewal and sanctification that leads one to union with the Divine.
It is only when one understands this and accepts it as a radical lifestyle transformation that one truly finds one’s identity as a doxological and eucharistic child of God. Apart from this, all of our understanding is confusion, and identity is an illusion.
We need to stop shopping and selling our earthly wares and start promoting His agenda. It is only then that we can truly do the Father’s will. It is only then that we are able to fulfill our roles as brothers and sisters in the Lord. The question posed to us is this: Are we willing to submit to and obey Jesus? In so doing, we receive our identity, find our place in the cosmos and, as a result, fulfill our destiny.
The call to action by the Lord is clear. Are you ready to trust in Him unreservedly?
John G. Panagiotou is a theologian, scholar and professor. Dr. Panagiotou is the author of the best-selling book The Path to Oikonomia with Jesus Christ as Our Lighthouse.
Jackie Morfesis is a creative, advocate and author. She holds a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and is a former Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to Greece. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian with an ecumenical spirit.