“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you died and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is manifested, then you also will be manifested with Him in glory.”
Being a person of color is an interesting experience.
Being a person of color who grew up in three different cultures is an even more interesting experience.
If I were to define what life honestly felt like until my mid-teens, it would be identity crisis: the condition of being uncertain of one’s feelings about oneself, especially with regard to character, goals, and origins.
As a Ghanaian born in east London with formative years spent in western Germany, I didn’t quite fit in anywhere. My parents had somewhat traditional values, especially in terms of how our relationship as a family worked. I was the oldest of four children, which meant I was essentially the third parent, leading by example and holding final responsibility if something happened “on my watch.”
To escape, I spent the bulk of my time at school—a school of a thousand students, all boys, with a culture all its own. I didn’t really fit in there either—my school was full of the cool people and I was an English nerd who loved to write and had more teachers as friends than fellow students—but it was less pressurized than being at home.
Every day, I would flit between these cultures, keeping Mum and Dad happy when I was home and at church and kind-of-being-myself when I was at school. The more that went on, the more my sense of identity crisis just grew and grew and grew. By the time I left secondary school to begin my A-levels in my very late teens, the feeling of having no real identity seriously hit home. I was the loner in class, depressed at home, buried under more classwork than ever in my life with little desire to do anything. In short, I was alive but I wished I was someone else.
Then I discovered a doctrine. Perhaps discovered is a strong term; I stumbled across a doctrine that Christians before myself have long appreciated and cherished. That doctrine was union with Christ. As has been said before, it is the most important doctrine you’ve probably never heard of, and I want to introduce it to you.
My premise is simple: understanding our union with Christ answers our deepest questions surrounding identity, purpose, and destiny.
Union with Christ is the Biblical truth that, by faith and through the work of the Spirit, we are vitally, mystically, and spiritually united to Jesus. This Spirit-born relationship is how, in the words of John Calvin, “we come to enjoy Christ and all His benefits.” (Institutes, 3.1.1).
Put simply, union with Christ is the truth that Christ is in you, and more importantly, that you are in Christ—and so everything He has is yours by faith.To explain this reality, the Bible employs pictures and describes the results of our union with a variety of ways:
How does union with Christ, then, help us in the search for identity? I return to those three questions I stated in the premise of this article: union with Christ answers questions of identity, purpose, and destiny. I believe a robust understanding of this doctrine will go some way to helping us not just personally as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ but also in our interactions with those who are different from us. I especially want to zero in on the issue of identity.
Consider this from the apostle Paul:
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you died and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is manifested, then you also will be manifested with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1–4, LSB).
Paul makes a number of powerful points in this chapter with respect to these realities. You are “raised with Christ” such that when Christ was raised from the grave, you were raised with Him. You “have died” in that life as you once knew it—for you, by you, through you—decisively ended when you were united to Christ. Your “life is hidden with Christ” in that your life is secure as Christ is in Heaven right now. Christ is “your life” in that Christ not only defines life for you, but indeed is your life!
Union with Christ answers the question of who we are by reminding us that we are no longer dead in sin.
This truth reminds us that our identity is not defined by our collective or individual pasts, our present circumstances, or our needs to try harder and do better. It’s defined by Christ!
In the profoundly charged atmosphere we find ourselves in today, perhaps believers of different ethnicities would be better served by remembering what unites us. Perhaps our tenor would change if we remembered our identity in Christ. Perhaps we would do well to remember that before our color and culture divides us, Christ unites us—not primarily with each other but with Himself.
May God help us to remember our union with Christ.
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D. Kofi Adu-Boahen
D. Kofi Adu-Boahen is the Teaching Pastor at Redeemer Bible Fellowship in Medford, OR. He’s been at the church since 2019 and serving as pastor since 2021. Kofi is the host of the Deep Dive Discipleship podcast on The B.A.R. Network and currently pursuing Theological Studies at Log College and Seminary in Sumter, SC. Kofi’s married to Laura and they have one son, Gareth Kwabena.