‘Who am I?’
For young Australians, this is the question.
Its answer marks the arrival of our personhood. It is a fiercely independent search, for in our post-modern world the answer is defined by our own convictions. Within the shared value of ‘diversity’, every identity is welcome.
The Value – and Downside – of ‘Diversity’
This openness to all types of identities has many benefits. People can talk about their personal experiences – and struggles – in ways they couldn’t previously. It has allowed those who experience gender dysphoria, who are same sex attracted, who suffer depression or who have experienced abuse of all kinds to own their story, to not be shamed for doing so, and to receive the love, consideration, understanding, and care that all people deserve and need.
And yet, this approach to self also leaves many young Australians craving the very thing it promises – belonging. If the only shared value which unites our society is diversity, then we really don’t have much in common to unite around. Our sense of unity, our sense of community suffers. As does our sense of identity: we’re left swimming in search of reliable bearings for who we are.
If the only shared value which unites our society is diversity, then we really don’t have much in common to unite around.
The Attraction of Anzac
For this reason, connection to a shared history which is greater than ourselves is very appealing. It is like healing for the bones. It gives us something to cling to which does not change with the passage of time or the shifting sands of experience. This is especially so when that history encapsulates values which we are happy to point to as expression of who we are as a nation and who we want to be.
There is much about our Anzac history which provides this for young Australians today. As we point to the rocky shores of Anzac Cove on the 25th of April 1915, we see images of young men united in purpose and in love. They are united in their love for their nation, their families, and each other. They model values of courage and sacrifice – values that are worth upholding, worth honouring, worth pinning our name to.
The Anzacs model courage and sacrifice – values that are worth upholding, worth honouring, worth pinning our name to.
This last week I have been pondering what it is about that very first Anzac Day which continues to captivate young hearts. This week crowds of young Australians who might otherwise consider themselves irreligious will congregate for times of reflection, prayer, and reverence.
The Heart of the Anzacs
As we look to those young men on the shore of Anzac Cove what we see are individuals who knew what they stood for. They knew who it was they were living for and, therefore, who they were willing to die for. We see young men willing to die for a nation to whom they are committed.
I can’t help but wonder whether this is a vision which we are famished for as young Australians today. In the constant battle to work out who we are, and what we stand for, we see in the Anzacs a vision that works. We see an expression of something that deep down we know to be true and we want to be true: relationships matter. They matter so much, in fact, that it is possible to place one’s very own identity inside of them and make it subject to them. They matter so much that it is possible to die for them and because of them.
Jesus Fulfills the Anzac Story
This vision taps into something which was at the heart of Jesus’ vision and message of what life was all about. At the centre of Jesus’ mission was a calling of others not only to himself – and through himself to the Giver of Life – but to others. It was a call to a new humanity defined not ultimately by happiness or self-expression but by relationships of love, of sacrifice, of commitment. This is, in essence, what humanity was made for, and what the disciples of Christ are invited into. It is a vision which is embodied in the person and mission of Christ himself.
In John 5:19-23 Jesus declares concerning himself:
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”
Jesus’ identity and mission is inseparable from the Father. According to Jesus, nothing that Jesus does, he does by himself.
Jesus offers a profound model of what it looks like to define yourself as a person: in relationship to, and dependent on another. Jesus’ inability to do anything on his own didn’t hinder his personhood or mission. It was at the very heart of it. He died by the love of the Father. He was raised to life by the love of the Father. And he gives life to those who come to him by the love and will of the Father. And as he does so, he invites us to give our life to him, that we too might know the significance of living life in – and for – another.
Jesus invites us to give our life to him, that we too might know the significance of living life for another.
A Life Worth Living and Dying For
As we hear the trumpet speak into the silence again this Anzac Day, as we observe the flickering of the flame and reflect on sacrifice past, as we remember courageous individuals who knew what it was to live for something bigger than themselves, I wonder whether we might let their vision shape our own.
I wonder, in our search for self, whether young Australians might be willing to consider a life defined by other, to consider a life which finds meaning and purpose in love. I wonder whether we might look to the God of love who in Jesus not only offers a model of a life of love which works, but who invites us into that very life. Such is a life is surely worth living for. And if it is a life worth living for, it is surely also a life worth dying for.
Photo courtesy wikepeida.com.