Before You – Perpetua

How would you define your identity?  If you have not already sat down for an interview of any kind, I guarantee that one of the first things that they ask of you is to tell them about yourself.  Maybe you tell them about where you are from or some of your accomplishments.  But none of those things really describe who you are at the core of your identity.  Today we are going to continue to take a look at some early church figures and see how one in particular can show us a great deal about how we view our identity.  

Today we are going to take it way back to the very beginning of Christianity. So far back, that the term Christianity was not even in use.  Though we live in a country where being a Christian is accepted and very common, in its infancy being a Christian was to be persecuted and even hunted.  Their largest opponent; the Roman empire.  To be a Christian in the Roman Empire and to be caught was to face death head on.  This is where our next church leader, Perpetua finds herself.  Perpetua was a noblewoman of only 22 years old during her incarceration. Though she came from wealth as a Roman citizen, her faith in Jesus was enough to condemn her to death.  During her time in jail, Perpetua actually wrote down her experiences.  In one instance, Perpetua writes about the time that her father came to visit her in jail.  During that time, her father pleaded with her to recant her faith.  He argued that if she said that she didn’t actually believe in Christ, that they would let her go.  Perpetua’s response is what I want to highlight today.  Instead of simply saying no, Perpetua directed her father’s attention to a water jug that was in the room with them.  Then she asked him if the jug could be called by any other name.  When her father answered no, she said, “Well, so too I cannot be called by anything other than what I am, a Christian.”  What Perpetua is trying to say, is that true identity cannot be changed.  Even if she wanted to pretend as if she did not believe in order to get out of jail, that would not change the fact that she was a Christian at the core of her identity.  

This is a story that really hits home for me.  From the time I was six until I was twenty two I played football.  I ate, slept, and breathed the pigskin.  It is weird to think back and realize that I have been playing football longer than I have not from the time I was born.  Despite this, I always told myself that I was a Christian first and a football player second.  I would have always said that God came first.  But once the clock ran out on my very last game, I was hit with the sobering reality that maybe I had been wrong all of those years.  It sounds silly to say, but I felt like I was going through withdrawal.  When you play football at a high level it becomes all you do.  If you are not at meetings, you are lifting, you are practicing, you are running, or you are watching film.  And when that ends, you are left with the feeling of “now what?”  I felt lost and I felt like I did not know who I was.  It took a long time for me to realize that being a football player was not my identity because true identity does not change.  I was forced to refocus and understand that the only part of me that will never change is that I am a child of God, created in His image.  

So think again about the question of how you would define your identity.  Who are you truly?  This is a very serious question.  I think we should all strive to have the personal clarity that Perpetua had when talking to her father.  Maybe there is something in your life that you think defines who you are.  But remember that true identity does not change!  Who you are is one thing and one thing only, a child of God.  I hope you find confidence in knowing that no matter what you do, no matter what changes in your life, you belong to God and that is who you are.   

-Sean

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