Don’t you just hate it when you’re giving a presentation or speaking with someone and hours later, when you’re replaying the conversation in your mind, you find the perfect response? I always want to rewind the tape and try again with my new and improved responses, but life doesn’t work that way. In literature and documents, we have found a way to somewhat solve that problem. We have created this handy device called an addendum that can be added to the end of a literary work with additional information. This add-on can be vital to understanding what was contained in the book, providing extra meaning to the entire work.
While reading the book of John this morning, I came across something interesting. An important piece of clarifying information was added at the end of one of the disciples’ names.
“Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:22 (NIV)
As a person with a common name (Sarah), I’m used to people mixing me up with the other Sarah because there’s always another Sarah. In one year in elementary school, there were three of us, which could’ve been quite a disaster. The solution was to add our last initial to the end of our names so that they knew Sarah C from Sarah P from Sarah A. This extra letter at the end of our names was helpful to differentiate us from the others. This add-on eliminated some confusion and helped us navigate through the year of Sarahs.
I wonder if that’s how this Judas felt about the addition of “not Iscariot” to his name. Was it a relief to eliminate confusion? Or did he see is as a burden? Did he constantly have to explain to people that he wasn’t that Judas?
Through no fault of his own, this Judas had something added to his name. Judas’s betrayal of Jesus created a stigma for every other man named Judas. Suddenly, the name that had identified this disciple for so long became bad, though he did nothing wrong. I wonder how this addendum changed how he lived. Did the actions of another change how he viewed himself?
While we don’t always have add-ons attached to our names, I wonder how many of us have added things to our identity along the way.
The longer we live, the more things we pick up, some good and some bad. Some of these things are placed on us through no fault of our own, while others are picked up by us for a reason that seems good at the time.
Over the years, I’ve had things added to my identity like fat, ugly, and lazy. I’ve picked up things like responsible, hard-working, and smart. I’ve found my identity in all of these to some degree at different points in my life, but I have been learning that those descriptors are not who I am. I’m learning that I don’t have to qualify who I am because I am worthy, not because of what I have done but because of who God is. The things that I have seen as disqualifying or that I need to explain, God has forgiven. God is taking off the add-ons that I have picked up along the way which is allowing me to run more freely after him.
I’m grateful for the grace of God and that he calls us worthy and beloved. He tells us our identity and leads us with peace. Even if we’ve picked up extra things along the way, he’s inviting us to drop those things and embrace true life instead. May we accept his invitation!
Have you ever had extra things added to your name? Your identity?
Are there any add-ons that God is calling you to let go of?
To go Deeper: Read New Identity Over Changed Circumstances, What’s Your Name?