When we know what truly defines us, we can empty ourselves, as Christ did, and become like those we seek to win to Christ. Unlike Christ, Adam, insecure in his ultimate identity as one created in the likeness of God, attempted to grasp for divinity (Gen. 1:26; 3:5). This resulted in his failure as the representative man to fulfill his mission to bring his posterity into a perfect union with God. In contrast, Christ, secure in His identity as God’s Son, humbly took on a human nature to redeem us and accomplish what Adam failed to do. Although Christ “was in the form of God . . . [He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6–7). Although Christ’s emptying veiled His glory, it was not a loss in identity but a taking on of another nature to fulfill His mission to save us (Heb. 2:17).
As bearers of Christ’s likeness, we have been freed to adopt other identities for the gospel’s sake so that the power of Christ’s sacrificial love may be manifested through us. We must be secure in our true identity as God’s children if we are to be free from an inordinate attachment to secondary identities, such as ethnicity, political affiliation, social class, or any other cultural identity. If we treat secondary identities as ultimate, they become treasures that cannot be given up and also the lens through which we see others. Consequently, we build or create barriers, creating an unbiblical sense of “us” and “them” and thus hindering our outreach to those whom we consider “different.”
Paul used differences due to secondary identities for the gospel’s sake, while Peter demonstrates the pitfalls of clinging to such differences. Knowing who he was in Christ, Paul was free of all, yet he became a servant to all; knowing that in Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, he became a Jew to the Jews; knowing that he was under the law of Christ, he became as one outside the law to reach those outside the law (Acts 16:1–5; 21:20–26; 1 Cor. 9:19–23). In contrast, Peter undermined his mission when he elevated a secondary identity above being in Christ (Gal. 2:11–14). His becoming a Jew to the Jews was not in service to the gospel but was used to divide God’s people based on a secondary identity. What Paul used as a tool to spread the gospel and help people find their ultimate identity in Christ, Peter used inadvertently to undercut his mission.
To obey the Great Commission consistently, we must be grounded in our ultimate identity and must not slavishly clutch our secondary identities. Secure in Christ and enabled by grace, we never lose anything of eternal value when we, for Christ’s sake, lovingly and humbly become like those unlike us. For the sake of the gospel, let us become all things to all people so they may join us in resting in our ultimate identity of being in Christ.