The Language of Sin and Suffering

I am ADHD.

I am bipolar.

I am depressed.

I am an addict.

I am [fill in the blank].

Within the context of counseling, it's common to hear people use these types of phrases to describe themselves. To be sure, there's a sense in which they're simply using a modern style of communication in order to say that they struggle, actively, with this thing or that thing. 

But, my concern is that, too often, embedded deep within the heart of the person, is this subtle notion that, in fact, the thing they're describing defines who they are. In other words, my concern for some people I meet with in counseling is that their language is not merely descriptive, but is definitive.

My concern is even greater when working with followers of Jesus. 

One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible is found in John 8:58. There, Jesus said to the religious rulers of the day, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am [emphasis added].” This statement enraged the men who were persecuting Him, because they understood that Jesus was harkening back to God's self-identification in Exodus 3:14. 

Jesus wasn't simply identifying himself with God, but was defining, or declaring himself to be God.

When we pause to listen to our own "I am" statements, and compare them with the words of Christ, might we reconsider how we use these seemingly self-defining statements? Do we mean to say, when we use them, that who we are is all that the thing, or the struggle, or the condition is? If not, then perhaps we ought to abandon our use of this language altogether. 

The point is, in light of who we are in Christ, it would be helpful to temper our use of  "I am" statements, especially those used in connection with our particular sin or suffering. Too often, they simply do not square with our new identity in Christ according to Scripture, but find their roots in the disease models of secular psychology.

As Christians, as people who have died with Christ, and through whom Christ presently and  actively lives, we are no longer defined by the sins and struggles of this world alone, even though we continue to be affected by them. 

If Paul's words are true when he says in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me," and again in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come," then we should carefully inspect how we make use of descriptive language.

How we define and describe ourselves should always be in keeping with Scripture. Sometimes, there will be tension. For example, it would be true for me to say, "I am a sinner." But, because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, I cannot leave the conversation there. 

Because of Christ, I am no longer defined by my sin or suffering, but am defined by Him. I am a sinner, yes, but I am also eternally forgiven, justified, and redeemed (1 John 1:8-9). I may struggle with this thing or that, but that struggle no longer defines me. Like all things of this world, they are passing away, and who God is making us to be will one day be revealed in Christ (1 John 2:17; Hebrews 10:14).

In light of this discussion:
  1. How have your own "I am" statements affected your understanding of who you are in Christ?
  2. Can you think of any adjustments you need to make to better reflect a biblical understanding of your identity in Christ?