Keeping an Identity

Lesser_Coat_of_Arms_of_Ukraine.svgAccording to Wikipedia on this day (November 20) in 1917 Ukraine became a republic. I spent time in Ukraine in 1999 teaching English, acting, and even square dancing (long story). I got to meet some great people and missionaries in the area. I spent time also doing some deconstruction on a house that was devistated by a huge flood. It was our team of 8 who only really spoke English, the home owners who spoke Hungarian and Russian, and Ukrainian soldiers who came to help who only spoke Ukrainian and Russian. We did have someone on our team that spoke some German, and there was a person who German and Russian. You can guess how that turned out. Instead, we pantomimed a lot of things. It was awesome and fun.

Ukraine used to be known as THE Ukraine. And to tell the truth, that is kinda like a slap in their face as a nation. Ukraine has been around for centuries (people were there before the Romans made settlements there) and has held a strong identity despite what history has done to their borders.

In many ways, Ukraine was able to reaffirm their identity after the fall of the Soviet Union. They were no longer a satellite country but their own sovereign nation once again.

I’ve been following very closely the goings on in Ukraine over the last number of months from protests to invasion by Russia, to the annexation of Crimea, to the downing of MH 117, to all that’s been happening. What I see is a strong nation holding tight to their identity. A solid, strong, identity that many of us in the States don’t always understand or get.

Here in the good ol’ US of A we get weighed down by our own distractions and inner struggles as a people. We get so inward focused that we forget that there’s a whole world around us. To tell the truth, I’m the product of the California education system where I was told that Canada was pretty much the 51st state and not worth studying. This didn’t go over all to well with my Canadian classmates in college and seminary. Even my Canadian brethren (and sisteren) had a strong sense of identity.

So did I. I was Californian through and through. That didn’t go over all to well with my classmates at times. Though when I was in Ukraine and told people I was from California they’d start asking about surfing and Hollywood.

Thinking and reflecting on Ukraine’s struggle to keep their identity, on my Canadian classmates and colleagues, and my own strong hold on my Californian heritage, I begin to wonder about a bigger identity.

Identity is so important to us today. So many of us try to identify with political parties, with groups with the same musical tastes, with different subcultural groups, and so forth and so on. We all begin to have our own tribe we identify with along with our larger identity.

I’ve had different tribes myself over the years. There is one tribe to which I belong that I will always belong to. The tribe of church.

In Jesus, there is no male or female, there is no ethnicity, there is no subgroup, no rich or poor, but all are one in Jesus. In the identity in Jesus, there is the collective whole of the tribe of church. The church is a small representation of who Jesus is and what things are supposed to look like when He comes again.

There is a struggle at times to keep that identity. As part of the tribe of church, we are to be distinct and different, not like the rest around us. Just like Ukraine doesn’t want the “the” in front of their countries name because that links them to an identity that’s not theirs, so as the tribe of church we are not to be like others. Just like my Canadian friends and colleagues, they are distinct and different than those around them when in the States. So, as the tribe of church, we are different, we are distinct.

The tribe of church has an identity. That identity is in Jesus. And it is an identity anyone can have. And this identity makes you change tribes from nationalities, ethnicities, subgroups, etc. to a larger, greater, more awesome tribe that ever was. It is a tribe that is bound together in one identity and strives to live out that identity.

Ukraine will always have a special place in my heart (as will Hungary, but that’s for another post I think) and I pray for the country and the missionaries there I know on a regular basis. But I also know that there are many in Ukraine (as in Canada) that are part of the same tribe I am. We are miles apart but bound together in the same tribe and identity.

The tribe of church, the identity in Jesus.

What tribe are you part of? What’s your identity?


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