I received a mystery package recently, opened it up, and discovered a popular appetite suppressant inside. Sprinkle this magic powder on your food, the included literature instructed, and allegedly it would cooperate with your sense of smell to curb your cravings. And here it was in my hands – a whole box of the stuff. But I didn’t order it.
Shortly thereafter I received a second package. This time it was a set of CDs: “Quick and Simple Japanese; Learn to Speak the Language in 10 Days.” With the box still in my hands, and as I wondered about it all, a third package arrived at my door. It was a box of those super-absorbent hand towels sold on late night infomercials.
Then I knew what was going on. Someone had stolen my credit card information and was having his way with my account. I called my bank immediately, and oh yes, a cyber-thief had been very busy. Dietary supplements, Japanese CDs, airline tickets to Bangladesh, car wax, hundreds and hundreds of dollars of charges.
Of course, we have a unique 21st century name for this type of crime: Identity theft. What a strange phrase that is; as if a person’s humanness can be reduced to the digits on a piece of magnetic plastic, the nine numbers individually assigned by the US government, or an email password. How ridiculous and superficial.
Surely there is much more to personal identity than what can be hijacked over the internet? Absolutely, but most times we are content with the shallowness of it all, because most of us have no real sense of who we genuinely are. We are made to be as Christ, but we have settled for much less.
As Paul put it so succinctly in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ so I no longer exist. It is Christ who lives in and through me.” The “Christian life” for Paul was a wondrous exchange of identity. He had swapped his individuality for the person Christ was forming and constructing within him. “Paul” no longer existed. Christ was now the animating force of his person, the center and ground of his being.