Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

~ Mark 8:27-29, NIV~
"People First" Language can sometimes drive me nuts, because it puts all the emphasis on words rather than getting to know a person and their preferences.  The intent of encouraging this type of language is good, but it doesn't take into consideration that each individual has a different slant on words to describe their diagnosis.  I have been in private, small group meetings where one person prefers use of the word handicapped, while another goes away disgusted because they prefer the word disabled.

What none of us wants is to be defined by others, especially when it comes to a disorder or chronic illness.  Both my husband and my son absolutely recoil if someone uses the word "hemophiliac" to describe someone with this bleeding disorder.  Our son wants to be known for his humor, his intelligence and his hobbies.  His disorder is part of his life, but it certainly doesn't define him as an individual.  Smiley, well liked and helpful are all personal qualities of his that should supersede anything you know about his health status.  If the monster of his hemophilia obscures the view of getting to know the real him, you will miss a remarkable boy indeed.  You might mistakenly label him as scary or fragile or burdensome when in reality, our son is a treasure.

Jesus knew that frustration of being defined by others.  Some had him confused with his baptizing relative.  Others fancied him as a reincarnation of dead prophets.  The Pharisees defined him as a threat and a troublemaker.  And many adored him only for what he could do for them.

Prior to his arrest as described in John 18, Jesus asks his enemies who they are looking for.  When they reply, "Jesus of Nazareth," he takes his opportunity to define himself by replying, "I am he."  "I am" was the name that Yahweh God used to identify himself to Moses from the burning bush.  As he defines himself clearly in the full power of God, his enemies are thrown to the ground by the mere mention of His majestic name.  Jesus reveals who he really is in this exhibit of briefly exposing then subduing his own power to sacrificially give his life in payment for our sins.

Further in to the chaos of Jesus' arrest, he comes before the chief priest and Sanhedrin, where those testifying against him try to falsely portray who he is and what he has said.  Ultimately, after being pushed to speak in his own self- defense, Jesus boldly declares who he is to his detractors:

"Then the Chief Priest said, 'I command you by the authority of the living God to say if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.'
Jesus was curt: 'You yourself said it. And that’s not all. Soon you’ll see it for yourself:
The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One,
Arriving on the clouds of heaven.'” (Matthew 26:63-64, MSG)

Aghast at Jesus claim to such majesty, the prideful, power-hungry Pharisees sought out his execution.  They clung so tightly to who they wanted to define Jesus as that they refused to accept his own self-revelation.

In this world, our children will be described as -ics or -acs by those who seek to define them first and foremost as the diagnosis they bear.  As their parents, we know better.  We are allowed the treasure of experiencing their true identity every day.  And we know full well that they bear the image of God, that same image that was distorted by those who called for Jesus' crucifixion.

Friends, know who you are, who your children are, in Christ.  Like your Savior, proclaim to the world their true identity against all false labels and descriptions.  Fight to the end and stand firm.  Jesus knows what you fight against, and he will equip you, because he has been there himself.

PRAY:  Lord, our identity lays in You alone, not in some disease or disorder.  Help me to firmly, but politely, stand for my child when others would seek to label, demean or distort.  Thank You for the hope that we are victorious against all misconceptions in You!

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. And in a twist of complete irony, the day this entry posts, our school is attempting to put the ED label on one of our children, so they can get the help they need. Never fun, yet that child's true identity is in Christ alone.

  2. I hate that my child is labeled by her facial features rather her other, unseen attributes And she doesn't "suffer" from Down Syndrome. She doesn't think she's different than anybody else. She is proud and loud, a child of God!

    1. How heartening to hear that YOU, her family, have your daughter focused on who she is in Christ!