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Background Text: Genesis 1:26, Psalm 139:13-16

Devotional Text: Jeremiah 29:11, James 1:19-25

We read a lot today about identities and identity theft. People need to be careful that someone is not trying to get their information and make use of it, leaving the victim to suffer the consequences.

I’m not going to write about this particular disease that has not only America but the whole world in its grasp. Today, I am writing about identity, our God-given identity. It is an identity we can still lose, and still have to pay the consequences. It is also an identity that grows stronger and fuller with God’s love as we remain steadfast with our Savior. Our God-given identity is about our character. It is who we are as people.

Early on in Genesis, we discover that God made humankind in his image. In Jeremiah 29:11, we find that God does have a good plan for each of our lives. In the second devotional Scripture this week, James speaks to us in his second chapter about what it means to have an identity of true faith.

God created us. We are images of God. God made a plan for each of our lives, knowing us even before we were in our mothers’ wombs. We are born, we grow up and we become adults. As adults (and sometimes a younger age), we discover what we are good at in life, and we pursue a life using the talents we have been given by God.

Scripture is full of various gifts and talents with which God has graced our lives. For instance, Romans 12:6-8 speaks about using our God-given gifts, while 1 Thessalonians 4:11 gives us an example of living a good life.

Have you noticed that God did not make any of us exactly the same? What I am saying here, as it says in our Bibles, is that we are each unique. Our identities belong to ourselves and no one else. And God uses us in our everyday lives, as opportunities arise for us to show God’s grace to others.

We have a time of prayer during worship at the church I serve, as do all churches around the globe. During that time, we speak of our joys and concerns that took place during the past week. Included in that time, is our time of encouragement as people will speak of their God opportunities and how God had used them during the week.

It may include helping someone take groceries to their car, or even opening a door for someone. When done with a smile and an openness toward one another, small encounters can become a moment of joy.

We were talking about such things at one of my churches a couple of weeks ago. A parishioner told us about something that had happened to her aunt. Her aunt had recently moved in with her son and his wife, who lived far from the aunt’s community of friends. After a few weeks of settling in, she began to feel lonely for her friends and she prayed to God to bring a new friend into her life.

One day, as she was coming out of the post office in this new town, she saw a man across the street getting into his car. He had placed his coffee cup and his wallet on top of his car as he opened the door and got in. And you guessed it — he then drove away with his items on top of the car.

As his wallet fell into the street, my friend’s aunt crossed over to pick it up. Inside, she found along with his money and credit cards, his license with address. Interestingly, the address was close to where she was now living, so she decided to return it in person.

The man’s wife answered the door as the aunt rang the bell. Explaining what had happened, she returned the wallet. You can imagine how thankful the wife was as she invited the aunt into her home.

As the two women talked, they discovered how much they had in common, and how much they liked doing the same things. The end of this story is that these two women became friends.

That, my friends, is God at work in our lives. God sees the bigger picture, and God knows our needs. My friend’s aunt needed to feel welcomed by her new community, and she found just the woman to do so, by the grace of God and answered prayer.

As we tell our stories to one another at church, we become more open to God’s kingdom around us. God uses encounters of grace to show our connection with one another. As we read our Bibles, we find examples of this very thing.

In Romans 12:3-4, Paul wrote to the Roman believers about how to behave toward one another: “Not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought. ... Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same functions, so in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others.”

What a great description of God’s family. I like how Paul uses the various parts of our bodies working together as a whole to describe our connection with one another. This is the way God planned his creation.

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 12:4 tells us that we each have various gifts given to us by God, adding, “there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of work, but the same God who works through all persons.”

What a truly wonderful thought, to know God made us with unique gifts and talents to be used. To know that God isn’t expecting us to conquer the world, or to become highly sought after persons of importance; but to be, instead, someone who cares, who helps, and who is willing to use what God has given to them to show compassion, without expecting anything in return.

Returning to the Scripture found in James 2:19-25, the author, James, who is a brother of Jesus, writes about our character: “My dear brothers (and sisters), take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s (a person’s) anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

James continues in this Scripture to advise people to get rid of filthy talk and action, but to act humbly toward others, with the love of God lighting our way.

What is your God-given identity?

The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of the Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.