In a recent sermon I delved into the meaning of the beatitudes throughout Scripture (“Blessed are…”). In particular, I examined how our view of what it means to be blessed is challenged by the statements of blessedness we encounter throughout the Bible. Typically, especially in our North American culture, we define our lives as blessed based on the circumstances we find ourselves in (e.g. $$$, family, health, friends, etc…). The problem, I suggested, is that this view of blessedness is limited to our own experience of what we think is blessing, whereas in the beatitudes of Scripture, blessedness is foremost a statement of our identity as the people of God. Christian living, then, requires us to accept identity as God’s people—an identity that in itself counts us blessed.
So when we read the beatitudes, instead of simply viewing the statements as rigorous ethical ideals for us to scramble towards attaining, they are actually a declaration of who we already are as the people of God. By realizing our blessed identity as the people of God, we don’t allow our circumstances to determine our blessedness, hopefully leading to an approach to everyday life that is informed by this blessed identity.
But is simply declaring our identity as “blessed” enough to actually live out that reality? Well, as I reflected on my message I came across the following:
If it acts like a duck (all the time), it's a duck. Doesn't matter if the duck thinks it's a dog, it's still a duck as far as the rest of us are concerned.
Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not "being who you are".
That's because 'being' is too amorphous and we are notoriously bad at judging that. Internal vision is always blurry. Doing, on the other hand, is an act that can be seen by all.
As the Internet and a connected culture places a higher premium on authenticity (because if you're inconsistent, you're going to get caught) it's easy to confuse authentic behavior with an existential crisis. Are you really good enough, kind enough, generous enough and brave enough to be authentically a hero or leader?
Mother Theresa was filled with self doubt. But she was an authentic saint, because she always acted like one.
You could spend your time wondering if what you say you are is really you. Or you could just act like that all the time. That's good enough, thanks. Save the angst for later. (Seth Godin via Mike Todd)
So… it’s one thing to declare who we, and it’s quite another to actually live that identity out. In a way, the absence of action may in fact be the absence of identity altogether.
And so for someone who has spent considerable time and energy reflecting on the identity of the people of God, these challenging reflections push me to consider how identity requires a corresponding action in our world. Now, I’m not convinced we have to separate identity from action. How can we know how to act if we don’t know who are are? And yet how can we be authentic individuals without concrete action that represents who we are?
I conclude, then, that there needs to be a both/and reality of identity and action—an understanding that who we are requires concrete action consistent with that identity.
The problem, which I'd love to get some feedback on, is when we doubt who we as Christians can we still act faithfully even if we are unsure of what believe? Still working on that one...