Identity
by Jack Wald | June 7th, 2020

1 Peter 2:9-10

RIC is an international church with many different nationalities represented. For this reason, I do not pay attention to America holidays or American events in our church services. I do reference American culture in my sermons from time to time because that is a reference point for me, but I am very much aware that the world is much wider than my country of origin.

However, this week I am making an exception. I am deeply disturbed by the events in the US: the murder of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. If I were in the US I would be on the street protesting this blatant abuse of police authority.

I wrote in the RICEmail this past Wednesday that there is a long history of the interactions between white police and blacks in the US. Most blacks came to the US as slaves and when slavery was abolished in 1865, at the end of the US Civil War, tensions between whites and blacks rose. Three years later in 1868 US law gave blacks citizenship rights and equal protection under the law. In 1870 voting rights of citizens was guaranteed.

Blacks, who were 44.1% of the population in the deep south and who just five years earlier had been slaves, were now able to vote and all of a sudden there were black elected officials in the Southern states. Blacks were now in positions of authority over whites. This sudden, radical shift in the culture of the south was resisted. At the end of the Civil War the Confederate Army (from the South) was disbanded but the Northern Army maintained a presence in the South to protect the black population and prevent any Southern uprisings.

But then in 1877 the Federal troops were withdrawn from the South and former Confederate soldiers formed vigilante groups that began to kill black elected officials and physically intimidate blacks with threats and actions of violence to prevent them from voting so that white candidates would be elected local sheriffs, local mayors, and congressmen.

Over the following decades, white police protected the white population from being prosecuted for any crimes against blacks. All white juries acquitted whites and found blacks guilty, regardless of the evidence presented. In the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white police with dogs beat peaceful black protestors. There is a long history of black mistrust of the police in the US.

This is not the time or the place to go deeper into this history, but I mention it because it raises the issue I want to address this morning.

There is a root problem that underlies the racial tensions in the US and the racial or ethnic tensions that exist in every country of the world, and that is the question of identity.

Why were whites in the South so threatened by having blacks elected to positions of leadership? What allowed the white Christians who went to church and sang songs of praise to God, who read their Bibles, and prayed – to also allow themselves to feel comfortable and justified in having black slaves? Why is there so much anger and mistrust between whites and blacks in the US today? It is all a question of identity.

Who am I? How do I define myself? What makes me different from other people? I’m an American. I am a white American. I am a white American with Northern European ancestry. I am a white American with Northern European ancestry with three academic degrees. I am a white American with Northern European ancestry with three academic degrees and an evangelical Christian background.

The more I define who I am, the more exclusive I become. If I am an American, than I separate myself from all those who are not Americans. If I am a white American, I separate myself from all those who are non-white Americans. As I define myself more completely, I separate myself from more and more people in this world. The group of people like me becomes smaller and smaller until eventually I am all alone.

We were created by God to live in community, not all by ourselves. Defining who we are so narrowly is not a life-giving path to take.

Miroslav Volf is a Croatian Protestant theologian and currently a professor of theology at Yale University. Croatia is part of the former Yugoslavia that broke up after the death of Tito in the 1980s into six republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. In addition, two autonomous provinces were established within Serbia: Vojvodina and Kosovo.

The long-standing tensions between the republics that made up Yugoslavia were repressed because of the dictatorial control of Tito. But without Tito, in the 1990s these unleashed tensions resulted in wars that broke out as the Orthodox and Catholic nationalists fought against each other and against Muslims.

Cities like Mostar in Bosnia where Christians and Muslims had lived peacefully with each other for decades, became a killing ground when Muslim homes were targeted by Croatian artillery on the hills above Mostar. I visited Mostar in 2011 as part of my D.Min. residency. A park was turned into a cemetery, filled with the bodies of Muslims killed in a three month period in 1993. In a horribly negative witness to Jesus, after the war the Catholic Church erected a large, silver cross on the hills where the artillery had been.

Serbian Orthodox priests sprinkled holy water on the tanks and blessed the paramilitary that went to Bosnia and committed genocide in Srebrencia. They sent away the women and young children in buses, and then shot all the men and boys and dumped them in mass graves. Over 8,000 men and boys were killed. I stood in the cemetery with more than 8,000 crosses stretched over the landscape. It is an emotionally difficult experience to study what happened and then see all those crosses, all those men and boys who were slaughtered.

After the Bosnian War, Miroslav Volf was speaking about loving our enemies and during the question and answer period after his talk Jürgen Moltman, a German theologian, asked him, “But can you embrace a chetnik?” The chetniks had committed atrocities against Croatians during WWII.

In response, Miroslav Volf wrote Exclusion and Embrace. He wrote this book about the atrocities committed during the Bosnian War to say, “Yes, I can embrace a chetnik.” This is an important book to read, but it is also a difficult book to read as he talks about the atrocities committed and how neighbors who had lived together and worked together, turned against each other when the nationalist Catholics and the nationalist Orthodox revived memories of the injustices of the past in order to reinforce their own power and influence in their communities – a perverse church growth strategy.

Neighbors, colleagues, and friends pulled away from each other as the memories of past atrocities were lifted up and the old tensions were revived. There is a terrible story Volf tells of a Bosnian Muslim woman, a teacher of literature. In the heat of the conflict, her student, a neighbor, urinated in her mouth while she lay on the ground with the laughter of the onlookers in her ears. Her colleague, a professor of physics, beat her over and over, anywhere he could.

It horrifies me to see what people in this world are able and willing to do to each other.

I want to focus on what Volf says in this book about the importance of identity. Volf says that when we create an identity, we automatically create “the other.” When I say I am a white American, I create a group separate from myself that is not white and not American. My identity creates distance between myself and others.

The Bosnian professor of literature had been a neighbor and a colleague. But then as identity was narrowed, she became excluded. She was viewed first and foremost not as a neighbor, not as a colleague, but as a Muslim. The residents of Mostar who for years had lived together peacefully, separated from each other and there were Christian residents of Mostar who worked with the Croatian artillery on the hill overlooking the city. They identified the Muslim homes that were shelled one after the other.

This was not only a problem in the former Yugoslavian republics. This is a problem in the US that has led to the murder of an unarmed black man and the protests that are taking place in every one of the fifty states of the US. It is a worldwide problem.

Where is there in the world, a country that does not have tensions between one part of the population against another part of the population? There are an estimated 3,000 tribes in Africa. The ten richest of these are Yourba, Pedi, Housa, Suri, El Molo, Zulu, Igbo, Fulami, Xhosa and Oroma. As I mention these I know that stereotypes and prejudices come to the minds of those who come from African countries.

South Koreans discriminate against foreigners and mixed race children (Chinese-Korean and North Koreans). Turks discriminate against Kurds. Germans discriminate against Turks. The list goes on and on.

I read a book, King Leopold’s Ghost, about the Belgian conquest of Congo. It is a brutal history of oppression and abuse in which half of the population, an estimated 10,000,000 Congolese, were killed for the sake of ivory and rubber. The Congolese were viewed as expendable sources of labor. Unfortunately, other European countries and the US in other continents, were similarly abusive. The Americans and Europeans viewed themselves as “civilized” humans who had the power and right to exploit “uncivilized” humans. It is a deeply distressing history.

As I sit in Rabat and watch and read the news of the US, it is disheartening for me to read about all the bitter tensions that divide one American from another.

Whites are now the numerical minority in six of the fifty states of the US, and they will be the nation’s numerical minority in a little more than 25 years. And now, for the first time ever in the history of the US, there are fewer white than nonwhite children under 10 years of age.

This is a significant change. The U.S. population has been predominantly white since the founding of Jamestown in 1607 (the first permanent English settlement in the Americas). As late as 1950, whites accounted for about 90 percent of the nation’s population. But in the past six decades, whites’ share of the overall population has dropped to 61 percent. Demographic projections suggest that whites will become the numerical minority in 2044.

This has a portion of the white population of US citizens highly worried. This change is viewed as a great threat to the US. Why? The portion of the white population of the US who feel threatened have a narrow identity that includes only those who are white like them. They are not Americans; they are white Americans.

In the US we talk about African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Why don’t we also talk about European-Americans? My mother’s parents came to the US in the early 1900s from Germany and Switzerland. My father’s parents came to the US in the middle 1800s from Norway. I had my DNA tested and discovered that while I am 85% Northern European, I also have some genetic roots from Britain and Ireland and roots from Southern Europe and the Balkans. I do not have any genetic roots to the first inhabitants of North America.

I am a child of immigrants as are 98% of Americans. Only 2% of Americans are descended from the original inhabitants of North America. The US is a country of immigrants. Some of our ancestors came to the US involuntarily, as slaves. Some of our ancestors came to the US voluntarily to find a better life. What makes us Americans is not where we came from or how we got to the US. What makes us Americans is our citizenship in this country of immigrants.

What do native Americans think about immigrants? There is an image of an American Indian on the internet saying, “So you’re against immigration? Splendid. When do you leave?”

For political and spiritual reasons countries should welcome immigrants and refugees. First, from a political perspective, countries benefit from immigrants who leave their homes and make the trip to another country. Even when life is very hard, only the most determined will make the sacrifices necessary to make a long and sometimes dangerous journey. This means that those who arrive in a new country come with drive and ambition to work hard and make a better life for themselves. The more difficult the trip to a new country, the more true this is. Because going to the US requires a longer journey, immigrants who arrive make a great contribution to the US economy. Even though many have degrees and training in some profession, they take lesser jobs to earn a living. The children of immigrants receive an education and make advances in their chosen professions. The US economy benefits.

It is a strange phenomenon that immigrants to the US resist the next wave of immigrants who come to the US. The German and English settlers in the US resisted the wave of Irish who came to America. Then the German, English, and Irish resisted the Italians who came to America. Then the German, English, Irish, and Italians resisted the Asians who came to America. This is the pattern. But while immigrants are consistently resisted, the continual wave of immigrants breathes new life and energy into the US and keeps the US competitive in the world economy. For patriotic reasons, the US should welcome immigrants and refugees to its shores.

What do you think about those who want to come to your country? If you view them as “the other” you will resist them and lose out on the blessing they can be to your country.

We should also welcome immigrants and refugees for spiritual reasons. Churches spend their money to support missionaries who go out into the world to bring the good news of Jesus to people who have not heard this good news before. Why is it then that members of some of these churches reject the people from these countries when they move into their own community?

Isn’t this a great opportunity to welcome these immigrants, help them assimilate into the culture of your country, help them find their way in this new life? I have friends who work with immigrants to the US and they spend time with them, learn about their culture, learn a few words in their language, share their native food. They let them know they are valued and welcomed. The love them in the name of Jesus.

The wave of immigrants who are coming to the US and other countries are a gift God is giving the churches of the world. We should give praise to God for this gift, not despise it and reject it.

Why is there such a strong rejection of immigrants? I think the roots lie in our identity.

The president of the US has made disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti. He asked why it is we had to allow in immigrants from s***hole countries in Africa and the Caribbean rather than from places like Norway. The racism of the current president of the US is revealed in statements like this. Why should it bother the US president and people who think like he does if the immigrants who come to the US are not white Europeans?

Again, it is a matter of our identity.

So as a follower of Jesus, what is my identity? Who does the Bible tell me I am? Peter wrote in the first of his two letters: (1 Peter 2:9–10)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Who was Peter writing to? Peter was writing to the early church that was being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. He was writing to Jewish followers of Jesus and Gentile followers of Jesus. He was not writing to Jews and he was not writing to Gentiles; he was writing to Jews and Gentiles who were followers of Jesus. This is why we can read this passage, 2,000 years after it was written, and say that it applies to us. Because we are followers of Jesus, this is also our identity.

As followers of Jesus, we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. The Bible does not tell us that we are Americans or Swiss or English or Sudanese or Liberians or Koreans or Antiguans, or Argentinians or Filipinos. It does not tell us what race we are. It does not tell us what our educational level is. It does not tell us what our political stance is. We are a chosen people. That is who we are. We belong to Jesus. That is our identity.

We need to remember that God created us to be in fellowship with each other as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in fellowship with each other. Each person in the Trinity loves, supports, and encourages the others in the Trinity.

The outward focus of the Triune God, each person looking toward the other two, is what led to our creation. The love experienced within the Trinity was too precious not to be shared. Because our relationships with each other are supposed to model themselves after the relationships within the Trinity, we are to be outward focused in our relationships. Rather than pull in to be with people who are like us, think like us, look like us, we are to reach out to the wide and beautiful diversity of God’s human creation.

We are making our way through this life, along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, heading to our heavenly, eternal destination. It is our home in heaven and the people who will be with us in heaven that serve as the basis for our identity here on earth.

Let me take a look at three aspects of our identity: our religious identity, our national identity, and our racial identity.

Christians are all children of God through faith in Jesus. There are an estimated 33,000 denominations in the world. Cities in the world have hundreds and sometimes thousands of churches. Are all these churches filled with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Only God knows. Salvation is a mystery and we are not qualified to make this judgment. But certainly membership in one of these churches does not disqualify someone from being my brother or sister in Christ. The Body of Christ is far larger than my concept of it is. And God wants you to live in harmony and unity with these brothers and sisters in Christ in the diverse churches of the world.

When someone asks you about your faith, what do you tell them? Are you an Evangelical Christian? A Lutheran? A Methodist? A Presbyterian? A Pentecostal? An Anglican? A Quaker? Every one of these descriptions creates “the other.” Every one of these labels creates distance between you and those who are not in the same faith tradition as you are.

After being part of Lutheran, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches when I was growing up, I surrendered to Jesus when I was in university and began attending an evangelical church. After seminary I served one year as a youth pastor in a Methodist church and then pastored two Presbyterian churches where I was ordained into the mainline Presbyterian Church.

For the next thirteen years I worked in the business world and then when the company was sold, I moved to Morocco to become pastor of RIC which, on an average Sunday (when Covid-19 is not forcing us to be locked down), has 35-40 nationalities and about the same number of denominational backgrounds.

What happens when we live in the midst of that wonderful diversity is that over time we become less denominational and more Christian. In your home church what you believe is constantly being reinforced by all the other people in your church. In your home church you have a way you do baptisms and observe communion. You have a way in which you worship and a way in which you pray. In fact, with all the other churches in your community, you focus on what differentiates your church from other churches in the community.

In an international church like Rabat International Church, what we believe is constantly being challenged by others in the church.

After being part of predominantly evangelical churches in the US, I have loved having Pentecostals in RIC. Pentecostals in our church have taught me to have a greater expectation of the Holy Spirit working in my life. I have grown in my faith because of the influence of Pentecostals in our church.

The beautiful thing that happens in an international church is that the denominational distinctives, those things that differentiate us from other churches in the community, are pushed to the side. We focus on the core of the gospel – which I loosely define as those things on which Evangelicals and Pentecostals agree. And because each denomination has a better understanding and appreciation of some part of the core, we end up with a more beautiful gospel.

We become less denominational and more Christian over time. Our focus in preaching and teaching is not on the denominational distinctives but on the core of what we believe and that is another reason why I believe spiritual life in an international church is so rich and vibrant.

When someone asks me about my faith, I tell them I am a follower of Jesus. This does create “the other” as all identity does, but at least this includes all those who follow Jesus, whatever denominational background they come from. This identity helps to create unity among us as members of Rabat International Church.

Another part of my identity is my nationality. I discovered when I went to Morocco how fortunate I am to be a citizen of the US. So many nationalities are restricted by visa requirements. I was trying to find a safe haven for a woman from Uganda who was being abused by her husband. Trying to get her a visa to go to some other country was almost impossible. Whereas I could simply get a plane ticket and go; she had to work and work to try to get a visa and that request was most often denied.

So I appreciate the benefits of being an American citizen, but I did not realize how important this was to me until Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth with a Mission, came to speak in Rabat. This was in 2003. He told us that when the percentage of Christians in a population reaches 25%, the values of Christianity spill over into the culture. He said that every country has smart people and every country has stupid people. But because China has so many people, there are more smart people in China than any other country in the world. And then he said that he expected the percentage of Christians in China to reach 25% by 2015. Christian values would spill over into the larger culture and as a consequence he expected China to be the dominant world power for the 21st century.

My first, immediate reaction was “Oh no! I hope that doesn’t happen.” And my immediate second reaction was, “Jack, what a jerk! You don’t want Chinese to become Christians so that the US will remain the dominant world power?”

This is an embarrassing story for me to tell because it shows how much my identity is wrapped around my nationality. I chose earthly domination over the work of Jesus to rescue people he loves and bring them into his kingdom. I rejected people I will spend eternity with because of earthly, political and economic concerns.

I have learned from this and other experiences and so I tell people that over my years at RIC I have become less American and more Christian. My identity as a follower of Jesus is more powerful than my identity as an American.

A third part of my identity is racial.

Those who say they don’t see race are fooling no one except themselves. We very quickly notice what is different about other people. Skin color is different. Eyes are different. Hair is different. Culture is different.

When I came to Rabat to begin as pastor of RIC, I came with a prejudice against Nigerians. In my years in business we periodically received a letter from someone in Nigeria wanting to purchase some of our product. What I discovered by talking with others in business is that all they wanted was for me to respond on my company letterhead with my signature. They could then use this to build a less obvious scam to get money from someone.

I was looking for a car for one of my daughters before I left for Morocco and met a Nigerian doctor in the parking lot of a mall who wanted to sell his car. He did not have papers to drive it outside of the mall parking lot and his story was so complicated, I walked away. I didn’t trust him.

But when I arrived in Rabat I met Uchenna Anyanwu, a pastor from Nigeria, who became one of my closest friends. Together we led the association of churches in Morocco. I learned so much from him about living my life as a Christian. Uchenna was deported from Morocco in 2010 and just graduated in May with a PhD from Fuller Seminary in the US. He is a great friend and an inspiration to me.

Another exceptional man is Clement Yoro from Côte d’Ivoire. He has a PhD in microbiology from a university in France and was called by God to work in Morocco. He joined me in the leadership of the association of churches when Uchenna left and he too is a great friend and encouragement to me.

Elliot Lamptey is a third friend and my relationship with him is very precious to me. (Elliot, when are you going to get your PhD?)

I am different from Uchenna, Clement, and Elliot. We have different world views, different cultural ways of praying, different cultural expectations about how a church should operate, different cultural views of the Biblical texts we study. There is so much that could separate us but I am bound to them in a powerful bond of love because what is most important to me and what is most important to them is that God is our Father, we have been given the privilege of working with Jesus as he builds his kingdom, and we are heading to our eternal home. Our common identity is more powerful than our differences. We are not Nigerian, Ivorian, Ghanian, or American. We are brothers in Christ.

I tell people I am a follower of Jesus, but doesn’t that also narrow my identity and create the other? Let me help you expand your understanding of being a follower of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus are heading to their eternal, heavenly home. When we get there, who will our neighbor be?

All those who are rescued by Jesus and brought into his family will be our neighbors in heaven. Because this will be our eternal home, our identity is that we are citizens of heaven, children of God.

Who will determine who will be a citizen of heaven, a child of God? This is the work of Jesus. It is not up to us who comes into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus brings men and women into his kingdom and they become our brothers and sisters in Christ. He does not consult us to ask if it is OK for them to come into his family, he welcomes them and we need to welcome them as well.

Who does Jesus want to be our neighbors in heaven? Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:3–4
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

I am highly conscious that every person I meet is loved by God. Jesus is working in the life of every person I meet. Jesus is doing everything he can to encourage the people I meet to open their hearts just a crack so his love can come in.

People who irritate me, people who hurt me, people whose politics offend me, people I do not like, are people Jesus loves as much as he loves me. Jesus died for these people and wants them in his kingdom. I have been a recipient of God’s grace and mercy. His grace and mercy is being offered to all the people I meet.

Jesus is working to bring the people of the world into his kingdom and I am one of those people. You are one of those people. This makes my neighbor and your neighbor the people of the world. Not all will choose to follow Jesus but we do not know who will and who will not choose to follow Jesus.

The thief on the cross led a destructive life but at the last moment of his life, turned to Jesus. Ted Bundy was convicted of raping and murdering thirty-six women between 1974 and 1978. There is suspicion that he raped and murdered more than one hundred women. While waiting in prison for his execution, Bundy turned to faith in Jesus.

For some people this is obscene. How could a man so evil be forgiven and go to heaven? The Boko Haram in the north of Nigeria have raped and murdered thousands of people. Does Jesus want these men who have committed so much evil to repent and come into his kingdom?

Did the early followers of Jesus want Saul, the Pharisee who aggressively arrested and imprisoned followers of Jesus and stood as witness to the stoning of Stephen, to come into the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus is seeking to save the people of the world and wants the hearts of all people to turn to him. There is no sin so great that his love cannot overcome it.

So love the people of the world, make your identity a broad identity that includes the people of the world. We are all born into this world. We are all making our way through the world. We will all die and leave this world. The judgment of God awaits us all and we cling to Jesus who will stand with us and take us into his kingdom. We pray that the people of the world will cling to Jesus.

When I talk with a Muslim in Morocco we share the same identity. We are both seekers of God. When I talk with a Muslim, I don’t want to engage in a fruitless debate about who is right and who is wrong. I want to talk about what we hold in common. We both believe that God created the world and we are distant from him. What am I doing so that when I die, I will be with God? What is the Muslim I am talking with doing so he or she will be with God after death? We are both seeking to be with God. That is a healthy dialogue.

When we expand our identity and begin to see other people through the eyes of God, our relationships become transformed. We are no longer excluding people; we are embracing them. When we take on the heart of Jesus for the world, we grieve with those who suffer injustice. We stop judging and begin reaching out. We become the hands and voice of Jesus as we love people in his name.

Rather than be offended by differences, we celebrate the diversity of culture and language. God loves diversity. We too should open ourselves to the beauty of diversity.

Rather than reject immigrants, we should welcome them, learn from them, help them to assimilate to their new country, help them to make their new country their new home.

We need to work hard to maintain this identity. When resources are scarce, we will be pulled to retreat and identify with our own tribe. We have to resist this. When resources are scarce, we need to pull together and help each other, not retreat to our bunker and hoard resources for our tribe. When we feel threatened, we will be pulled to retreat and narrow our identity. We have to resist this and remind ourselves who we are and who we belong to.

We have to be careful about who and what influences us and informs us. We have to be careful what news we watch. We have to be careful what leaders we listen to.

Last month Félicien Kabuga was arrested in Paris. Kabuga is a Rwandan businessman, accused of bankrolling and participating in the Rwandan genocide. He was a major financier of the ethnic Hutu extremists who slaughtered 800,000 Tutsis and political opponents in 1994. He was the general manager of the radio station that spewed out hate messages against the Tutsis and urged mass slaughter in the months leading up to the massacre. He was one of the main importers of 500,000 machetes that were imported into Rwanda in the three months before the genocide, enough to arm one of every three adult Hutus in the country.

Leaders who seek to divide must be resisted. News sources that raise one part of the population at the expense of other parts of the population must be rejected. Leaders who identify with one faction in a divided country encourage discrimination and violence against the other side. We have to fight for unity, fight to have a common identity.

I want to work with Jesus by loving people in his name, not against him by letting my prejudices and self-interests determine who I interact with. I pray for you and for me that we will increasingly see people with the eyes of Jesus and take on his heart of compassion for those he sees. I pray that we will look past our own selfish self-interests and see into the kingdom of God.

My eyes are fixed on the prize. My home is in heaven. I want to live now as a citizen of heaven. I do not want to get to heaven and have to apologize to my fellow citizens about the way I treated them on earth.

There are many things that differentiate us from others in the world. They seem so important now, but I am convinced they will seem trivial in heaven. And as we grow in faith, they will become more trivial. In the words of the chorus we sing from time to time,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

As your heart expands and you take on the identity of being a citizen of heaven, justice issues become personal. How can we ignore the suffering of people who will be our neighbors in heaven? Use your voice, your vote, your influence, and your resources to help those who are suffering from injustice.

One of the great blessings that comes from being a member of RIC is that we are a diverse community. We experience a little bit of what it will be like when we arrive in heaven. We have a wonderful opportunity to broaden our identity while we are here at RIC. Take your identity out into the world and work for Jesus in the way you care about the people he loves.

I pray that your identity as a beloved daughter of God, as a beloved son of God will become more powerful than any other part of who you are.