In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, part of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Eustace Scrubb wanders away from the rest of the crew when their ship docks on an island. He’s a very unpleasant person, so there’s a mixed reaction when everyone realises he’s gone:
“Confound the follow,” said Edmund. “What on earth did he want to slink away like this for?”
“But we must do something,” said Lucy. “He may have got lost, or fallen into a hole, or been captured by savages.”
“Or killed by wild beasts,” said Drinian.
“And good riddance if he has, I say,” muttered Rhince.
At this last remark, a valiant mouse named Reepicheep speaks up and says to Rhince: “You never spoke a word that became you less.”1
Reepicheep doesn’t merely chide the sailor for his words, but points out how inconsistent they are with who he really is. He’s part of a crew sailing with the King of Narnia—that has to mean something for how he acts.
In all spheres of life, our identity is meant to shape how we live. When you join the army, you’re held their high standards of discipline and must obey your officer’s commands. When you become a parent you’re expected to act like one, caring for your children and helping them grow.
Likewise, many commands in the Bible exhort us to live in light of who we really are.
Our identity in Christ
In his New Testament letters, Paul frequently greets the churches with reference to their identity:
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7)
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” (1 Corinthians 1:2a)
“To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1)
Rhince was a sailor in the king’s crew, and we are saints in Jesus’ kingdom. Let’s think deeply about the privileges and responsibilities of that calling, and live it out.
The apostle Peter writes in a similar way at the beginning of his first letter:
“To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” (1 Peter 1:1–2)
All Christians are exiles, as we belong to the kingdom of God rather than this world. This identity forms the foundation for how we ought to live. God has given us his Spirit to sanctify us, so we obey Jesus more and more. We do this because we are his, not to become his.
Later in the letter, Peter makes this connection even clearer:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:9–12)
The first paragraph describes who we are, and the second directs us how to live. We do not belong to this world, so we shouldn’t act like we do.
Why we need Reepicheep
Our sinful desires will continue to wage war against us (v. 11), but we must live with the constant awareness that this is an aberration from who we truly are.
This isn’t easy. It requires us to react to our own sins and failures in a distinct way. When you snap with anger for the thousandth time, you don’t need to sink into despair or resign yourself to struggling with this sin forever. You have the weapons to fight back—you are a redeemed child of God, sin does not have the final say, and God has given you his Spirit so you can walk in holiness.
Peter tells his readers to actively pursue godliness: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1)
It’s not a solo fight. You need friends like Reepicheep, who will call you out when you’re not living in light of the identity you have been given through Christ. Invite others to speak to you in this way, firmly but lovingly reminding you that Jesus’s blood has redeemed us from the “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
This takes humility, but we will be godlier for it.