who we are who we are notI recall some years ago, sitting at my desk filling out a form that asked for all kinds of information about me.  In it, I had to give some of my family history, my education background, my hobbies, skills, etc.  I was sharing information about who I am.

The more I think about it, the more I believe there is a lesson in that experience.  In most settings, we think the most important thing about someone is who he/she is.  But there is a scene in the scriptures that tell us something different.  In the story about John the Baptist, most of the information shared of him is about who John is not.  He is not the “Light of the World.”  He is not “the Christ.” And he is not “one of the prophets.”  By the end of the introduction, we know quite a bit about who John is not.

I think the same thing should be said of Christians.  Most people are preoccupied with questions of identity:  Who are you?  What do you do?  Where are you from?  We often identify ourselves by the answers we give to these common questions.

But I believe Christians must first know who they are not.  Then we can truly know who we are.

We are not the light of the world.  When we believe we have the answers to life’s problems, when we think we know it all, the Christian faith becomes oppressive instead of liberating.  The Church must reflect God’s Light, not claim to be that Light.

And we are not better or more holy than others.  Through the centuries, Christians have been loving, kind, obedient.  But we have also been stubborn, rebellious and divisive.  We are a mixture of saint and sinner, faith and faithlessness.  We have not cornered the market on being or doing good.

So, then, who are we?

There is a story of a boy who was given a compass as a gift.  The father of the boy said the compass was often left laying around the house.  But every time he saw it, no matter where it was found, it was pointing in the same direction.  That’s what followers of Jesus are called to be and do…we are compasses, pointing to Someone greater than ourselves.  We are mirrors that reflect a light that is not our own.

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John…. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light.”

That is who we are (not).