Why Your Identity Is Not the Same as Your Role

Don't Let Your Calling Become an Idol

Pastors, missionaries, and other Christian workers are often liable to a unique pitfall in that the thing that tempts them most is a really good gift. It is the temptation to find your identity in your role.

But the truth is that all of our roles are temporary. They are callings that we have for a season. You won’t have that calling forever. If you build your essential sense of who you are into that role, you will create a monstrosity out of it—at some level, it will become idolatrous.

The opposite to creating a distortion in your role is anchoring your identity in things that actually relate more intrinsically to who you are as a person, as a man, as a human being.

For example, the first four Beatitudes in Matthew 5 all portray an essential sense of need for help outside of yourself. If a pastor, a missionary, a teacher, a professor, a counselor, or any kind of Christian worker loses that sense of fundamentally being a dependent and in need of mercy—and starts to attach their identity to a role that they play, as good as that role may be—they will start to skew their self-understanding. They will become prone to possessiveness, owning turf, getting defensive, becoming messianic, or any number of particular temptations that stem from getting too hung up on a calling. When this happens, you have lost sight of the essential identity that is supposed to be the heartbeat of your life.

No matter what your calling is—whether as a pastor or as someone who is on his deathbed and in need of pastoring—the question is the same: have you, throughout your life, cultivated a core identity that is anchored in Christ instead of in your role here on earth?

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