Originally posted Feb. 17, 2011, at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
I was upstairs at home on Monday night when my husband, Gary, called out to me, “Hey, did you buy two cameras for someone named Joy Elaine Porter in New Boston, Texas?” A bill for $673.68 had arrived in the day’s mail, and he was understandably confused.
So was I!
Immediately, I called the store, only to discover that someone had set up an account in my name, using my Social Security number.
Ten phone calls, and a visit from the Chamblee police, later, I collapsed, numb and distraught, into my bed, feeling violated and afraid.
My identity has been stolen, and the nightmare is far from over. For months, or years, to come, I will be looking over my shoulder, wondering when the next incident might occur.
Our identities are precious to us. We certainly don’t choose to be robbed, or taken advantage of, or misrepresented. And we feel both wounded and threatened when we are betrayed on such a personal level.
It hurts, and it chips away at our ability to trust. It also makes us more careful and more cautious in the future.
In an article written in 2003, church planter Dirk Boersma from Denver contends that often the church is guilty of identity theft as well.
When Jesus is misrepresented, for example, or the gospel message of grace is ignored or rejected, then a spiritual theft has occurred.
He says that many of the people we encounter in the world may be “the victims of identity theft: deceived and disappointed believers.
“They left their church because of its double standards, because of financial irregularities or because of a deceiving message. And they have become suspicious of all activities that are done in ‘the name of Jesus.’”
As confessing Christians, we must be mindful of the ways we communicate, in our words, and in our actions, and we must be willing to admit our failure when we practice deception “in the name of Jesus,” whether it’s intentional or not.
We must also be sensitive to the deep wounds and the mistrust of those we meet, with appreciation for the history they bring to our shared experience. We must listen hard, learn well and love fully, always seeking to represent the character of the One who heals and forgives.
And, most of all, we must ultimately find our true identity and our security not in the temporary marks of a broken world but in the timeless love of a generous and gracious God.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
Find a link to Nancy Christensen’s entry at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.