“He’s from a broken home.” We’ve probably all heard this term, used to describe a situation in which a child’s parents have been divorced or separated, or “normal” family function has been disrupted in some way. It’s often used to explain a child’s misbehavior and struggles in school or life in general. We all know the negative effects a tough home life can have on a child, or even an adult for that matter. But does divorce, separation, or abuse have to occur in order for there to be brokenness? I think we all live in broken homes, because we’re all broken people- and the reason for that is sin.
One of the definitions of the word broken is “not functioning properly; out of working order.” This has certainly been true of mankind ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, where God’s perfect design for creation spiraled into chaos and disorder after Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Nothing and no one in this world works properly. We have all turned away from God’s authority and plan for our lives. In Romans 3, Paul (quoting from Psalm 14) says that not even one person is righteous or seeks after God on their own. We fall woefully short of what we were originally intended to be.
We all look for ways to fix this feeling of brokenness. “Believe in yourself! Do what makes you happy! You can be anyone you want to be,” the culture shouts. “You define yourself and your future.” We are encouraged to explore our identities, to discover who we really are, and to do whatever brings us happiness.
There is an increasing cultural focus on the issue of identity. Race, gender, sexual orientation, personality traits- these things are often how people seek to identify themselves, to bring meaning to their lives, to find where they belong. They are culture’s way of attempting to heal our brokenness. Some of them are part of God’s design for humanity, although we place a lopsided emphasis on them in an attempt to turn them into identities that ultimately define us. Others are actually sin issues that we have twisted into good things to give ourselves a sense of belonging, to ease a guilty conscience, or just simply because it feels good. Society has done a great job of not only tolerating, but accepting and celebrating just about anything that makes us feel good.
Problem is, it’s all a lie. An enticing lie, to be sure, but a lie nonetheless. People are looking for “safe spaces,” where no one will tell them anything is wrong with them and they’ll be accepted just as they are, no changes necessary. But there IS something wrong with all of us… something that has broken us. And trusting our feelings doesn’t work well considering we were all born with a sinful nature, a bent towards selfishness. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things, desperately sick, and beyond our ability to understand. Our feelings about something don’t indicate truth. We need an objective source of truth.
We try repeatedly to find fulfilment outside of God and His Word. Like children rebel against their parents, we reject authority and the idea that God would have the right to tell us how to live. Our sinful nature and Satan conspire together to convince us that we will be happier if we go our own way. The sad irony is that God is the only thing that will truly satisfy us!
True joy, peace, contentment, belonging, and freedom can be found in none other than Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate fulfillment of everything we long to be and have. There is nothing we can do to earn His love. He does accept us the way we are, but change will be necessary if we are to truly surrender our lives to His authority and obey Him. It is often painful to follow Him. The costs can be great, the struggles immense. But not only does He become our new identity, He gives us the strength to make the changes. He doesn’t expect us to push through on our own. His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Our brokenness is exactly what He uses to work in us and lead us to Himself, the true source of delight and love.
This isn’t an easy road. Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 that we must deny ourselves (reject our own selfish desires that are contrary to God’s Word), take up our cross (embrace God’s will for our lives, no matter the cost), and follow Him. Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 tell us to “put to death” our sin. But in order to do that, we first have to submit to His Word and accept that it IS sin. We have to accept that we will never find our true sense of belonging or identity apart from Him.
This is in direct opposition to everything our culture will tell you. The thought of denying yourself something that makes you happy to embrace a life of struggle and submission to someone else’s authority is downright repulsive to most. And you might think it’s easy for me to say all this, being a straight, white, Christian woman. It is true that it’s easier for me than many others. I have not dealt with racism, struggled with my sexuality or gender, or had to deal with potentially losing everything because of my faith. But we all must make the decision to either put our faith in Christ and define ourselves by His power and righteousness, living in obedience to Him, or to define ourselves by any number of other things- even if it’s just our own selfishness, pride, and desire to be the authority of our own lives.
There are many people who have made the difficult decision to lay aside their other identities and follow Christ. Rosaria Butterfield was a feminist lesbian who, after reading the Bible and having conversations with another believer, became a Christian. Her first book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, tells her story, about how she “lost everything, but gained eternal life in Christ.” Her second book, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, explores the concepts of sin, identity, and repentance.
Becket Cook was a gay man in Hollywood, who became a Christian in 2009 after hearing the gospel. According to this article detailing his conversion, he “traded his gay identity for a new identity in Christ.” Becket still experiences same-sex attraction, but doesn’t define himself this way. In his words, “If people ask me how I identify, I’m just like, ‘I don’t identify by my sexuality. I’m a follower of Christ who has a lot of struggles, including same-sex attraction.’” He also talks about being celibate- denying himself to take up his cross and follow Jesus. I haven’t read his book, entitled A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption, but based on the article, I would recommend it to someone struggling with this topic.
Nabeel Qureshi (who, sadly, died from stomach cancer in 2017 at the age of 34), was a devout Pakistani-American Muslim. After years of study, research, debates, and conversations with people holding all different kinds of worldviews, he left Islam and became a Christian. This decision was extremely costly for Nabeel. His family and most of his friends were Muslims, who were shocked and dismayed about this decision. Islam was a huge part of his identity that he was giving up. In his book, No God But One: Allah or Jesus? he says one Muslim friend told him that if they were in a Muslim country, he would have killed him right then and there for leaving Islam. The only reason he didn’t is because the laws of the United States don’t permit it. Nabeel asks this question at the end of the book: “Leaving Islam can cost you everything: family, friends, job, everything you have ever known, and maybe even life itself. Is it really worth sacrificing everything for the truth?” After an objective study of Christianity, Nabeel’s conclusion was this: “The gospel is the answer to our individual pains, to the world’s sufferings, and to life’s mysteries… It is worth all suffering to receive this truth and follow Him. God is more beautiful than this life itself.”
In a video that went viral in 2017 (linked below), Priscilla Shirer had this to say on the issue of being defined by race: “I do not describe myself as a black woman, because that gives too much power to my blackness. I don’t want black, my race, to be the describing adjective, the defining adjective of who I am as a woman. I am not a ‘black woman.’ I am a Christian woman who happens to be black… So you may be a black woman, a black man, a white woman, a white man, but that should not define you, so that if your race or if your political group is going in a different direction than the Word of God, you don’t choose your blackness or your whiteness or whatever culture you are. You do not choose that or your political persuasion over what it is that God’s Word declares to be true.” She faced some backlash for this and later clarified that she is very proud to be a black woman, but her point was that “no aspect of life should ever define the believer MORE than our relationship with Christ.” Diversity among race, heritage, and culture are beautiful gifts from God that we should enjoy and celebrate, but they should not define us.
These individuals, and countless others, have either given up or reprioritized identities that they once held dear, often at a huge cost. They exchanged these identities for the One that truly brings satisfaction and joy: Jesus Christ.
My favorite verse in all of Scripture is Isaiah 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Peter quotes this verse in 1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” Think about that… by his wounds we are healed. It seems like a beautiful, poetic paradox- that one man’s suffering through a tortuous death could heal us. But He does. If we believe in Him, He heals us from our sin and our brokenness.
It is painful. But it’s worth it. Jesus is worth it.
Note: I know that many people adamantly, vehemently disagree with this worldview. If you’re one of them, I would simply say that this is what I believe to be true- but I don’t look down upon you if you don’t. I don’t think you’re any less of a person if you believe something different. I don’t think you have less value. In fact, I believe every person intrinsically has equal value because every person is made in the image of God. You are worthy of love and respect no matter what you believe, and one of the worst things we can do with topics like this is get angry and shut each other out. I would love to hear your thoughts and have a conversation about this, even if you completely disagree with what I have to say.