Thursday’s Thoughts: Identity Thief

Posted: February 7, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Comedy, Thursday's Thoughts
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identity_thief_ver3 Jason Bateman is one of those actors I feel like I’ve personally grown up with, especially since he too is a child of the late 1960’s. If you look at his acting credits, he really is one of the kings of television. I remember watching him on Little House on the Prairie (yes, when it originally aired), then really enjoying him for years on the sitcom, Valerie. After a bunch of failed TV shows, he was truly at his comedic apex in Arrested Development. Of course, he has made many films as well, often as supporting characters. To be honest, as much as he is a natural actor in my book, I’ve always been disappointed with his movie roles. He has some “hits,” but a whole lot of misses. I’m afraid that Identity Thief will be another one of those comedies that miss the mark–ending up being rude and crude rather than cute and funny. If you choose to see it, you can let me know.

But let’s move on to the main theme of his latest movie–the stealing of a person’s identity. Leave it to Hollywood to be able to make a very serious crime into something comedic. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with turning something painful into a series of yucks; we often need to laugh so we don’t cry! But the reality is that identity theft is an extremely devastating crime that is on the rise. The ease with which most of us give out our social security number, credit card information, and all sorts of personal data is truly remarkable. As the movie tagline suggests, Identity thieves really are having the time of other people’s lives! From the stories I’ve heard of people who have had their identities stolen, it is no small task to get them back again.

Identity Theft also helps us to think about a much more ubiquitous problem that can often be ignored–our spiritual identities being stolen. We often forget that the forces of darkness in this world are constantly attempting to “take away” who we are–our true identities. All human beings are made in the image of God, but original sin distorts these true identities until Christ redeems and restores our true selves. Satan and the world would rather see our identities continue to be transformed by evil and sin than to be changed by a union with Christ. So the spiritual “thieving” of our identities is actually a slow, lingering process that seeks to make us into something we were never meant to be.

One of the most intriguing places in Scripture where we see this sort of identity theft is in Daniel 1. Daniel and his three Jewish friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were among the best and the brightest to be taken into captivity to Babylon. In order to serve the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar, the first step in this identity theft was to change their names to reflect the worship of Babylonian gods. So these four men were re-named Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–stripped of their Jewish identities. Next, they were trained in Babylonian philosophy, history, and religious beliefs so their identities would be cemented as pagans instead of lovers of Jehovah. They were to even eat food offered to idols, which of course they resisted. Thankfully, the next few chapters of the Book of Daniel demonstrate that the identity theft was ultimately unsuccessful!

A very modern parallel to Daniel and his friends in Babylon occurs every day on our college campuses. This is where spiritual identity theft is rampant. Our covenant children are not getting their credit card information stolen, but the training and education they received in our churches and homes instead. Many of them are being “re-named” by this world, and re-trained to believe they really do not belong to God. To many of their pagan professors, Christianity is a naïve identity that must be stripped at all costs. So, while many of our college kids are having the “time of their lives,” they are also in the process of having their identities stolen away. This is no laughing matter!

Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is that when we are truly IDENTIFIED WITH CHRIST, no person or devil can steal that away. Companies like LifeLock may be successful in protecting any earthly identity theft, but only the power of the Word of God and the Spirit will perfectly guard our spiritual identities. Only then can you have the time of your life, with your own eternal life!

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