1 John 3:1–3
"Can we doubt that presently our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations, that it will achieve unity and peace, and that our children will live in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or garden that we know, going on from strength to strength in an ever-widening circle of achievement? What man has done, the little triumphs of his present state ... form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do."
-H. G. Wells, A Short History of the World (1937)
"The cold-blooded massacres of the defenseless, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment, and fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished - has come near to breaking my spirit altogether ... Homo Sapiens, as he has been pleased to call himself, is played out."
-H. G. Wells, A Mind at the End of Its Tether (1946)
Wells writes with such an incredible optimism in 1937. To him, the world and was moving towards an exciting utopian humanist reality and he just seems happy to be a part of it. If we fast forward nine years to his statement in 1946, there is a markedly different tone to his writings. This is an interesting evolution of thought. What is the fault of this dramatic change of tone? The thing to which we might credit this change in outlook would likely be the inception and bloody conclusion of World War 2. It was in this war that we saw the brutality of humanism. It raised concentration camps, fired gas chambers, dropped bombs on cities, killed millions, and worked prisoners to death. This is the true man. All of this was wrought through a shear desire for power and energized by racism and hatred.
Wells’ ultimate disappointment and turn in tone is a result of a sorely missed idea of identity. He invested such great hope and value in the goodness of man and had been proven the fool for doing so. This is not unlike what often occurs through the process of sin with the result of deep seated anxiety in our lives. We ultimately have an identity problem. We identify ourselves by the passions that we have and when they fall apart, our lives seems to be in wreckage. We as human beings are fully capable of finding our whole identity in being parents, but when our children make poor decisions and completely fail, we feel like our lives are in an uncontrollable free fall and we have lost all sense of security and are instantly sinking in the depth of anxiety and despair. We can find our ultimate identity in our career, but when our career is gone, we see our despair and emptiness that had once been veiled in a false sense of purpose. We can find purpose in other things. It is not that we cannot find a heuristic feeling of importance or self worth in these things. The lie of sin is not in the fact that we cannot feel purpose. The lie of sin is that ultimately this sense of purpose and fulfillment are meaningless and facade. Ultimately, the purposes and identities that we build by what we do or our own sense of our importance will, at some point or another, collapse. At that point people are usually plunged into the same despair and anxiety that Wells displays in his writings. We feel this because the things that we have stacked our identity in are ultimately out of control and unreliable. You may live on this purpose for some time, but ultimately it will disappoint you.
The difficult thing is not recognizing the despair and anxiety that comes from the disappointment of the things that we have dedicated our sense of identity to falling out of our control. We all know how this feels. The difficult question is; “where do we go from here?” Where do we get that sense of identity that doesn’t disappoint? John writes about this incontestable identity which we can with confidence hang our hat on in 1st John 3.
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. -1 John 3:1–3
The identity that we can have that doesn’t disappoint is the identity that we find in our relationship with Christ. It is entirely unassailable, immutable, and something that we have in complete confidence. This is a result of the same reason that demolishes our other broken senses of identity, it is entirely out of our control. If we find our purpose and fulfillment in this, then it will never disappoint. We will never have to crash in despair and anxiety, because it is entirely God who secures our relationship with Him. If we find our identity, purpose, and sense of fulfillment in His work and His control we will never be disappointed. The identity in Christ banishes the vicious cycle of misplaced identity that comes from sin. It saves us from despair in life. The love of God redeems us in life as it does in eternity when we identify ourselves by our relationship with Him. Who are you?