by Chad Pierce
“Most people run away from the sound of gunfire. Marines run toward it.” This was one of the many true yet testosterone-filled phrases I remember being taught at Marine Corps basic training.
As a 42 year-old pastor and father of four, running towards gunfire now sounds like a really stupid idea. But as a Marine infantryman, it was something I had committed to do. Actually, more than that, it was something I was willing to do because of who I was. My identity moved me to irresponsible action.
Most of us experience this in some way or another. On this Mother’s Day I think about all that my mother did and my wife does because they are mothers. From changing diapers and sleepless nights to their selflessness and humility in almost every situation, mothers do what they do because of who they are. They are mothers.
About three years ago, my wife and I adopted Greta from Haiti. We are so glad we did…some days. While our daughter is an amazing girl, life has not been without its challenges. In addition to my wife’s work as the director of immersion education programs at a local school, she has had to learn so much. Little things like Haitian hair and skin care, to big things like attachment issues have meant that life in the Pierce household has been interesting. And while there are peaks and valleys, my wife Jodi has shouldered so many of these challenges…Ok, I’ll say it, these burdens. She has done so with a Christ-like grace (most days) because of who she is. She is a mother. And loving children through everything is at its base what mothers are supposed to do.
Romans 8:1-17 speaks a great deal about our Christian identity. As believers in Christ, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, the Holy Spirit works in the life of believers in such powerful ways. The Spirit unites us to Christ. Therefore, we have already been crucified and raised with Jesus. We have been set free from the law and adopted as God’s children. The Spirit gives us life and freedom. The same God who was with Christ to heal and who was promised to come continues to live and move through the body of believers.
Yet, I am intrigued by verse 5b which says that those who live according to the Spirit live according to what the Spirit desires.
We live in an interesting time. Especially for those of us in the United States, the country, the church, my denomination (the Reformed Church in America), local congregations, and even families find themselves in divisive turmoil. Various sides have dug in on a variety of incredibly important issues. And yet, at times it appears that the vitriol comes from a place other than our identity as Spirit-filled followers of Jesus. I wonder if Christians in the USA don’t really have a political crisis or even a theological crisis? I wonder if we have an identity crisis? I wonder if we have chosen to identify ourselves primarily as something other than radical followers of Jesus?
As Christians, like mothers and Marines, we too are called to live into our identity, to seek out those things that are of the Spirit and that the Spirit desires.
According to Romans 8, we have been set free so that we might freely live. No longer do we need to preserve our own power, our own authority. No longer do we need to live in fear of the unknown, the uncomfortable, the unlovable. Rather as people indwelled and infused with the Spirit we are called to live in accordance with our new identity. For it is no longer we who live, but it is the resurrected Christ through the power of Spirit, who lives in us.
I think that makes most of us uncomfortable. I am. For I know deep down that the Spirit wants me to live more, help more, partner more, receive more, learn more, and love more than I am comfortable with, even more than I can even imagine.
But I will try. Not because it’s the right thing to do. Not because it’s trendy. This Easter season I am trying to live and love more because of who I am. Or maybe better said, I will because of the one who lives within me. My prayer now is that our identity in Christ moves us towards more and more irresponsible action.
Chad Pierce is pastor of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.