The most important of all our perceptions is the way we perceive ourselves. There is a story in American Indian folklore that illustrates this truth very clearly. According to the legend, an Indian brave came upon an eagle’s egg which had somehow fallen unbroken from an eagle’s nest.
Unable to find the nest, the brave put the egg in the nest of a prairie chicken, where it was hatched by the brooding mother hen. The fledging eagle, with its proverbial strong eyes, saw the world for the first time.
Looking at the other prairie chickens, he did what they did. He crawled and scratched at the earth, pecked here and there for stray grains and husks, now and then rising in a flutter a few feet above the earth and then descending again. He accepted and imitated the daily routine of the earthbound prairie chickens. And he spent most of his life this way.
Then, as the story continues, one day an eagle flew over the brood of prairie chickens. The now aging eagle, who still thought he was a prairie chicken, looked up in awed admiration as the great bird soared through the skies. “What is that?” he gasped in astonishment. One of the old prairie chickens replied, “I have seen one before. That is the eagle, the proudest, strongest, and most magnificent of all the birds. But don’t you ever dream that you could be like that. You’re like the rest of us and we are prairie chickens.” And so, shackled by this belief, the eagle lived and died thinking he was a prairie chicken.
Our lives are shaped by the way we perceive ourselves. The all-important attitudes by which we perceive and evaluate ourselves tell us who we are and describe the appropriate behaviour for such a person. We live and die according to our self-perception.
The good news is that those us who are in Christ, we are no longer products of our past. We are primarily products of Christ’s work on the cross. But remember, when we were dead in our trespasses and sin, we had learned to live our life independent of God. Our identity and perception of ourselves were formed and programmed into our minds through the natural orders of this world. That’s why Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Renewing our minds does not come naturally; there is no automatic delete button that erases our past life. We have to consciously know the Word of God so that we can understand who we are from God’s perspective. And who are we? As 1 John 3:1-3 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
The most important belief we possess is a true knowledge of who God is. The second most important belief is who we are as children of God, because we cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how we perceive ourselves. And if we do not see ourselves as God sees us, then to that degree we suffer from wrong identity and a poor image of who we really are. It is not what we do that determines who we are. It is who we are that determines what we do.
Finally, Colossians 3:10, 11 say we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
In other words, how we formerly identified ourselves no longer applies. When asked to describe themselves, people usually mention race, religion, cultural background or social distinctions. But Paul said none of those apply anymore, because our identity is no longer determined by our physical heritage, social standing or racial distinctions. Our identity lies in the fact that we are all children of God and we are in Christ.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea