The thrust of this sixth article on the necessity of knowing one’s true identity in light of who God is and his plan for one’s life, is on the individual’s identity in relationship to other human beings. Common experience and social scientists teach us that human beings are social beings and their identities are partly determined by their particular social groups (tribes, clans, communities and families), their own DNA and carving out their own unique place in society. How is the individual’s identity partly tied to his/her environment? How should he/she relate to other people in carving out his/her own identity? What kind of relationship is healthy for the individual’s own wellbeing? This article will seek to explore below. The fifth article on “the individual and God made the following points:
To satisfy the perpetual void in every normal person that purely material things and human efforts cannot remove there is a need to have a relationship with God. The Bible makes the point again and again that God yearns to have fellowship with human beings.
Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me and I will never cast out anyone who comes to me” (John 6:37). In the Old Testament the prophet Ezekiel make it emphatically clear that it is not the will of God that any soul should perish (Ezekiel 33:11; 18:23) . The writer of Revelation puts it like this, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens, then I will come in and eat supper with him” (Revelation 3:20). John sums it up beautifully: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The believer’s relationship with God is like any important relationship. It has to be honestly and earnestly attended to if it is to grow and be maintained. How stable, healthy and beneficial it is depends on the quality time and efforts that are put into it. God has shown in experience, in the biblical and Christian history that he is always willing to keep his part of the bargain. It is often the human partner that fails him again and again. But God is so great and gracious that he is willing to forgive and support the sinner who repents.
The believer-God relationship is characterized on the part of the believer by faith, trust, prayer, obedience, openness and the ability and willingness to repent and return whenever she/he discovers she/he has fallen short and gone astray. God on his part rewards trust and obedience with peace, security now and eternity, and joy. He gives and maintains a joy that no amount of difficulties and misfortunes can take away.
And now we turn to the individual and others. John Mbiti quotes an African proverb that says, “I am because we are and, since we are, therefore I am”. This quotation points us to the interconnectedness of all human beings. John Donne wrote: “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main”, Martin Luther, Jr., puts it vividly when he writes: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” On another occasion Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
All these quotes make the single vital point that every person’s security, progress, health, happiness, and prosperity are dependent on other people’s security, progress, health, health and prosperity. Therefore if I ignore the plight and welfare of others I indirectly jeopardize my own security and peace. This has been proven again and again in history. Every now and then the marginalized, the excluded poor, and the exploited get pushed against the walls and then rise up and overthrow. Then pay day comes. The lives of those secured privileged few and those of their families and all who are closely connected to them are made miserable forever.
Hence, the individual must always seek to improve self in light of helping others improve their lives and living conditions. Self-seeking, self-protecting and self-promoting at the expense of others or ignoring the same needs of others is self-defeating.