You Are Not Your Own

0 comments Posted on November 18, 2021

by Alan Noble

The fundamental lie of modernity is: that we are our own. Until we see this lie for what it is, until we work to uproot it from our culture and replant a conception of human persons as belonging to God and not ourselves, most of our efforts at improving the world will be glorified Band-Aids. The first question and answer in the Heidelberg Catechism reads:

  1. What is your only comfort in life and death?
  2. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

A proper understanding of our personhood requires we recognize that we are not our own. At our core, we belong to Christ. This doesn’t just mean that we give mental allegiance to Christ or discover our true identity in Him. The truth is deeper and more beautiful than these phrases convey. For one thing, our understanding of identity tends to be distorted by modern conceptions of image and representation. To belong to Christ is to find our existence in His grace, to live transparently before God. And this belonging to Christ necessarily entails belonging to His body, the church, and to our families and neighbors. An anthropology defined by our belonging to God is diametrically opposed to the contemporary belief that we are autonomous, free, atomistic individuals who find our greatest fulfillment in breaking free from all external norms. Our selves belong to God, and we are joyfully limited and restrained by the obligations, virtues, and love that naturally come from this belonging. This living before God is not easy. It requires sacrifice and humility, perpetual repentance and dependence upon Christ. In a secular age such as our own, it requires an intentional effort to remember that we belong to Christ, and that belonging is not merely a doctrine, but a reality that touches every aspect of our lives.

Maybe the cure sounds worse than the disease. If our lives are not our own, are we not enslaved? Isn’t that the definition of a loss of freedom? Perhaps nothing seems worth that price. The belief that we are our own fundamentally forms our inhuman society. Consider the alternative: accepting and embracing our belonging to Christ, which unites us with Him and gives us the ground to delight in this world even as we work to make it more human.

Adapted from from You Are Not Your Own by Alan Noble. Copyright (c) 2021 by Alan Noble. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.


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