How Christians Can Speak Into the Modern Identity Crisis

In post-Christian nations like Australia, you don’t have to look far to see evidence of a growing identity crisis. We have lost our sense of transcendent meaning right when we need it most, with the pressures of modern life piling up around us.

Where do we go for our sense of worth and purpose as human beings?

Followers of Jesus carry the wonderful answer to this question. Our presence in every sphere of public life—including political parties like Australian Christians—is vital in proclaiming the hope of the gospel into the angst of modern life.

What others think of us—or what we think of ourselves—is a weak foundation for human identity. The opinions of others and our own self-assurance take us on a highway to one of two bad places: narcissism on the one hand, or self-loathing on the other. Haven’t you noticed that both of these conditions are on the rise?

Narcissism and self-loathing appear to be opposites. But they share more in common than you might think.

We often speak of people who have a “low self-esteem” or who “hate themselves” for not being more talented or good-looking. This is a feeling all of us can relate to at times!

But notice that behind this sentiment is a form of self-affection that says, “I wish I was more talented or beautiful but I have been dealt an unfair hand.” See, vanity and shame are not so different from each other. Both feelings arise from the same place of intense self-preoccupation.

As C. S. Lewis wisely pointed out, thinking less of ourselves is no solution, but thinking of ourselves less is a giant leap in the right direction.

Strangely enough, in this twin crisis of self-obsession or self-hatred is a faint echo of the gospel.

The Bible is very clear in describing our depravity. The prophet Jeremiah declares, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul likewise wrote, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away.” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is not all the Bible says about us, however. There is hope.

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead,” we read in Ephesians 2:4-5. Praise God!

Theologians often speak of the gospel as “the great exchange”. At the cross, all of our sin was put on Jesus, and all of his righteousness was put on us. So when God sees us now, he doesn’t see our rebellion and sin; he sees perfection.

God’s heart towards us now is expressed by the prophet Zephaniah: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17).

As sinners and rebels, we deserve death. Even the darkest depths of our self-loathing don’t fully express how desperately we need God’s forgiveness. And yet, as image-bearers of God, we have his stamp of infinite worth. More than this, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, bought by the precious blood of Christ.

In the words of Tim Keller, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

This is good news for a world in need of hope. It is why Australian Christians exists—to unashamedly proclaim the message of Jesus and apply it to all aspects of life.

The gospel is not an instant fix to every earthly problem. But it sets us back on the path to wholeness. Knowing who we are begins with knowing whose we are.

Famous for her heroic efforts in saving Jews from the Holocaust, Corrie Ten Boom said it best: “If you want to be depressed, look within. If you want to be defeated, look back. If you want to be distracted, look around. But if you want to be delivered, look up.”

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