In the movie Black Panther there is a scene where rival tribal leader M’Baku challenges T’Challa, the heir to the throne of Wakanda, to a fight for the crown. T’Challa is losing the fight until his mother Ramonda yells, “Show him who you are!” At once T’Challa finds strength to turn the fight, yelling, “I am Prince T’Challa, son of King T’Chaka!” That scene stuck with me because T’Challa found strength in remembering and calling out his identity. He named who he was—and whose son he was.
The strength of knowing one’s identity is a recurring theme in movies, literature, and music. And identity is of absolute importance for every believer in Christ. That’s why God spends much of the Bible explaining who his people are. Christ teaches who his followers are to be (salt and light, e.g.). The apostle Paul describes our identity in many of his epistles.
It should go without saying that we should be listening to those voices, believing in and living out our true identity as children of our heavenly Father. Unfortunately, the world we live in tries to give us an alternate identity. The world would like us to think that we’re shaped by what we achieve or by the things we accumulate, or that our identity is permanently marred by our mistakes or failures.
These traps lead us away from our true identity in Christ. Christ reminds us to listen to our Creator. God knows us best! That’s a relief, because there are many temptations contending for our attention. Illusions of success, wealth, status, fame, and the like will not deliver on their promises to give us an identity. True identity in Jesus is the anchor keeping us tied to who God says we are.
So who does God say we are? Let’s take a lesson from Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:13-17). John baptizes Jesus, an event that inaugurates Jesus’ earthly ministry. When Jesus comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove, and he hears his Father’s voice. His Father says, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
The first thing Jesus heard was an affirmation from his Father (parents, don’t miss that!) that established Jesus’ identity—and ours! We are children of God. That’s who we are.
Jesus was also told that he was loved. So are we.
Finally, Jesus is told that God is pleased with him—even before he begins his ministry! Likewise, the Father’s pleasure in us is not wrapped up in our performance. When we make mistakes, we aren’t disqualified from God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39).
Once we believe who God says we are and live from that place, we are less susceptible to the traps of the enemy, and we are able to walk in the strength of God’s love and total acceptance of us as his children. When we are accepted like Jesus was at his baptism, we are freed from the shackles of perfectionism, performance, and pretense. We don’t need them because our identity is not in them. Thank God he loves us enough to spend time showing us who we are—and who we are not!
So in the words of Queen Mother Ramonda from Black Panther: “Show them who you are!” You are a child of God, one who is loved by God and in whom God is well pleased. Now live like it!