“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” – Matthew 16:15
This is life’s truly inescapable question. All others can be sidestepped, one way or another. If nothing else, death makes all questions meaningless…except one: Who is (or was) Jesus, depending on your estimate of Him? The answer to that question will determine not only your demeanor in this life but also your destiny in the next. Fortunately for him—and us—Simon Peter had the right answer: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). But as Jesus said, this kind of certainty comes only from God, and to those to whom He reveals it.
But I want to glean something else from Jesus’ words, if you’ll permit me. It was actually George Morrison who spurred my thoughts in this direction by these words: “It is a thrilling hour when one is understood. And so perfectly human was our Lord that the cry of Peter moved Him to His depths, and stirred Him with profound emotion” (“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona”). He’s right, you know. We all want to be understood and seen as who we truly are. This is why we’re drawn to those people who do. Those to whom we must constantly be explaining ourselves soon lose their attraction. But sometimes, it’s our own fault.
If we want others to know us, we have to be who we are. “Putting on airs,” or conversely, flaunting an artificial “down home” image, are both easy to spot and hard to tolerate. This is not to say that our faults and failures have to be front and center. They can be acknowledged without being accentuated; just as our virtues and strong points should be displayed without flourish and fanfare. As a young wife, thrust into the position of pastor’s wife to older women, I well remember the temptation to either flaunt my position or pretend ignorance on things. Once I realized I could be who I was, without pretense one way or the other, we all settled into a wonderful relationship and lasting friendships to this day.
One more point on this idea of being understood: Why not be the understanding one? If we appreciate those who take the time to make an honest judgment about us, shouldn’t we do the same? The popular saying, “What you see is what you get,” is a misnomer, as far as I’m concerned. People are generally more—or less—than what you see; and we miss so much when we refuse to look further. Many of us make an initial judgment about someone, and ever after, hold to that estimate as infallible. When his or her name is mentioned, faults must always be pointed out, or their virtues used to excuse misconduct. As human beings, we’re a combination of both nature and nurture; but most of all, we’re the result of a sinful nature, and in the case of a Christian, a new nature given to us by God. There’s a lot going on there!
Who am I? It’s an important question. Jesus thought so. He knew who He was, but He was glad when others did too. If God, who knows me better than anyone else, loves me, I’m not afraid to be who I am; and I’m thankful for those who have chosen to truly know me too. And by God’s grace, I’ll do the same for you.