I grew up in a southern US tradition. Family was a really big deal as it is in many places. What I noticed about my grandparents and relatives was how they would “name drop” about this family and that family. I didn’t really understand at that age. They would say “that boy is one of the Miller boys and you know how they are.” Or “that girl is one of the Platt girls and you know they are old south and old money.” Maybe you didn’t hear any of that growing up.
I bet you have watched movies though. Ever seen the movie where the Duke of Simpson or the Earl of Homer with the children of Bart…got engaged to a Marge of the Princeton Marges? You get the idea. Family names. Identity in tradition. A pride of legacy. Those rich images of generational identity are somewhat lost on the modern western world for sure.
Here is a tragic truth. Identity has always been our central issue. Even Sin (the proper noun) is really a lack of identity. Sinning (the verb) is what Jack (last name) Sin does. Want to take a short journey of formless discovery? Want to see how tragedy comes to a nameless identity? OK, here we go.
Step one: the beginning. We all know the story but sometimes a refresher is good. Adam and Eve with the serpent. The serpent tells a lie. Actually he implies an untruth to tempt them into eating the poisoned fruit.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (ESV)
There are lies all over the place here. The devil begins by pretending like God isn’t there. He is everywhere. The lie of separation takes root. And the biggest lie of all that gets Eve to “bite” was the lie of their identity. They were already like God, made in His image and likeness.
When they ate they ran and hid. Their identity came from self. They hid from the source of life and chose the darkness of deception. They hid in the bushes from Love and created a fearful image of Him in their minds. This new image of God was based on their unfaithfulness. Their thinking was broken and fallen. They made God in their image but bigger. They thought in their minds “if we can’t trust ourselves how can God be trusted?” They ran from their source of identity into the darkness of self-generated identity. They became formless and nameless. They were the children of God and became the children of man in their own minds.
Check out this verse in 1 John:
1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (ESV)
Now you are wondering what this has to do with Adam and Eve? Well, everything. Check out this same verse in the Mirror Translation:
1 John 3:4 Distorted behavior is the result of a warped self-image! A lost sense of identity is the basis of all sin! (Mirror, Francois Du Toit)
Now you are probably asking how did Francois Du Toit get there? Here is his explanation:
(The word often translated, sin, is hamartia, from ha, without, and meros, form. The opposite to hamartia would be the word metamorphe, from meta, together with, and meros, form; thus with from! [See 2 Cor 3: 18] The word often translated, lawlessness, anomia, from a, without, and onoma, name; thus without a name; anonymous.)
Unless you are a real Greek scholar you will miss the connections found in a typical lexicon. I’ll spare you the details and well just go with the idea that Sin and a self-image and identity and distorted behavior are all connected. Let me say it this way. Sin (as personified by Paul in Rom 6) could be the absence of form or completeness. It is a noun that suggests a “person place or thing” that is a result of and is defined by “missing the mark.” Let me suggest that this is our identity outside Jesus.
When Adam and Eve fell, they completely lost the bubble on who they were and who God was. It was a product of a lie and consumption of bad fruit. They no longer found their identity in God but in themselves. This was a formless identity compared to a divine identity. They lost sight of who their Father was and like some tragic amnesia, they forgot their last name.
This is why the “law” didn’t work either. There is no identity in “following the rules” or “carrots and sticks.” There is only death. Paul says that the law of sin and death was written on stones. The law gives power to Sin. Why? It re-enforces our lost identity. It reveals our powerless human legacy in Adam. Like some failed rags to riches story, mankind just can’t get to the end of the rainbow following a legacy of Adam.
This is why Jesus had to come. We humans were completely lost in our fallen identity of a fallen Adam. The “original Sin” wasn’t a verb but a noun. We had a new last name in Adam…John Nothing. Our new identity was founded in a formless, absent, mark-missing deceived reality without God at the center. Mankind was hiding in the bushes afraid to embrace their Father. We didn’t even know who He was.
Jesus comes to restore our identity and God’s identity. He shows us who the Father is and who we are. Jesus takes the “power of Sin (lost identity)” and kills it on the cross. He joins humanity in the incarnation and kills the “Sin (lost identity) nature” on the cross to bring us into His life. We leave the independent life of a fallen Adam and join the perfect family of Jesus. We go from hiding to included. We leave or “nothing” last name in the dirt and are raised again with His last name. We move from “trying to get everything from nothing” to “having everything” in the maker of everything. We leave lack in the tomb and step into the light with provision. We are so accepted by our new family that we never feel rejected. We can’t be rejected.
Here is more from the Mirror translation. These are the verses just prior:
1 John 3: 1 Consider the amazing love the Father lavished upon us; this is our defining moment: we began in the agape of God – the engineer of the universe is our Father! So it’s no wonder that the performance-based systems of this world just cannot see this! Because they do not recognize their origin in God, they feel indifferent towards anyone who does! 3: 2 Beloved, we know that we are children of God to begin with, which means that there can be no future surprises; his manifest likeness is already mirrored in us! Our sameness cannot be contradicted; our gaze will confirm exactly who he is – and who we are. 3: 3 And every individual in whom this expectation echoes also endeavors to realize their own flawless innocence mirrored in him whose image they bear. (Mirror)
Here is some welcome encouragement from Romans 6:
Romans 6: 22 Consider your life now; there are no outstanding debts; you owe sin nothing! A life bonded to God yields the sacred expression of his character, and completes in your experience what life was always meant to be. 6: 23 The reward of the law is death the gift of grace is life! The bottom line is this: sin employs you like a soldier for its cause and rewards you with death; God gifts you with the highest quality of life all wrapped up in Christ Jesus our Leader. (Mirror)
And we should never forget who we are in Jesus:
1 John 3: 9 To discover one’s authentic sonship in God, is to discover true freedom from sin. We are born of him and his seed remains in us; this is the only possible reference to sober up the mind from the intoxicating influence of deception. (Mirror)
We will never again be nameless or formless. Our new identity is in Jesus. We are seated in Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealing our identity in God’s family. We are learning what it looks like to be a child of God. We have finally come into our original intended identity in the triune reality of our divine family.