Forming Faith Blog

Identity Theft (September 26, 2021)

God knows who we are, even when we try very hard to be someone or something that we are not.  God knows our authentic identity.

A broken clay mask. We sometimes try to hide our identity, but God knows and loves our whole selves.
A Public Persona

If you are like most people, you have spent at least a little time using social media.  This very public forum is an opportunity to display what we want to show to the world about our life events, our thoughts, our passions, our feelings, and our ideas.  Social media is also a place where it can be easy to hide the truth—to put forward a “cleaned up” version of reality for public consumption, and we pick and choose what we post accordingly.  We want to look like we have it all together.  We want to show others that we are capable.  We want to be worthy of admiration.

Mistaken Identity

Social media was not around when this Bible story took place, yet this is still a story about a misrepresented identity.  Jacob is tired of being the second son.  He knows his brother will receive his father’s blessing and this does not make him at all happy.  So, with some encouragement and help from his mother, he devises a plan to claim a new identity.  Jacob says to himself, “I’m just as good as my brother.  I deserve the good things in life.” Disguising himself as his brother, he fools his father.  His temporary identity theft will have long-lasting repercussions.  It will affect his life for years.  He will be separated from his brother in ways that will lead him to live in fear for his own life and for the lives of his family at times.

There are times in life where we need to hide parts of ourselves.  We worry about presenting the proper identity. So, we filter what we say at work, dress the part to appear professional, and jump through hoops just to get to the next step in life.  You may even remember making efforts as a teenager to “fit in” through your activities, style, and language that may not have been your first choice.  Maintaining the facade can be tiring and frustrating even in these defined situations.  

When we misrepresent ourselves in every part of life, it causes bigger problems. Misrepresenting ourselves affects our lives in complicated ways.  It can damage our relationships in every area of life.  We find ourselves having to maintain lies and continue acting. When we hide our authentic selves, we can find ourselves exhausted and feeling disconnected from the world.  

God Knows Us

The good news is that God knows us authentically, no matter how hard we try to be someone we are not.  Like God did with Jacob, God does not abandon us even when we try to be someone we are not.  God loves us as we are, and God will continue to love us through all our mistakes.  Even when we want to hide parts of ourselves from the world, God knows every bit of us.  Every part of your identity is known and loved. We may not become the parent of a new nation like Jacob, but God can (and will) use us to do incredible things in the world.  

God’s promise is to continue to bless us.  Like Abraham, we are blessed to be a blessing. We carry the promise that began so long ago.   God will continue to spread blessings upon us and through us.

Ideas and Questions to Explore
  • Children often pretend to be someone else.  Consider using disguises, costumes, or masks in a children’s message or an illustration.  Hiding behind a mask can be fun sometimes, but it isn’t helpful for every day.
  • Challenge your congregation to consider what kinds of images they sometimes portray to others that may not be authentic.   Perhaps invite people to make a mask out of paper or draw a picture of a costume to represent this concept.
  • Consider being vulnerable with your congregation.  Share a personal story in your sermon about a time when you were less than honest about yourself.
  • Questions you might use with small groups:
    • When have you told a lie to someone because you thought it would make your life easier? 
    • What were the consequences?
    • Who do you know that you feel safe enough to be your authentic self with?
  • Give families something to take home as a reminder that God loves them as they are.  This could be a sticker (printed on a mailing label) or a sticky note to put on their bathroom mirror or another place they will see it daily.

In Christian love,

Michelle Ketepa

Michelle Ketepa is a coach and author.  She is a mother of three girls, and has 25 years of professional experience in family, youth, and children’s ministries.  She currently resides in Southeast Michigan and continues to serve God as a volunteer at First Presbyterian Church in Warren.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download our weekly “bulletin insert” home devotional resource for the week of September 26th. This is a full sample from our Living the Word: Sharing God’s Story @ Home (NL) home devotional resource which can be used with many ages in many contexts!

Leave a Reply