Thomas Grueter has always had trouble putting names with faces. But unlike most of us who might have trouble recollecting the name, Grueter’s trouble lies in recognizing the face–even if it is his own mother’s. His condition is called prosopagnosia or “face blindness,” and until recently the disorder was thought to be exceedingly rare. But new research led by a team that included Grueter himself shows the disorder is surprisingly common.
Those affected with prosopagnosia are not forgetful or inattentive, nor are they the social snobs they are often accused of being. When it comes to faces–even their own–they see very little that distinguishes one from another. The part of the brain that signals face recognition simply does not respond. As a result, they may greet acquaintances as strangers, struggle to keep up with plots in movies, or have difficulty finding their own children at school pick-up time. “I see faces that are human,” notes one woman of her condition, “but they all look more or less the same. It’s like looking at a bunch of golden retrievers: some may seem a little older or smaller or bigger, but essentially they all look alike.”
What must it be like to look in the mirror and see a perfect stranger staring back at you? How difficult must it be to not be able to recognize yourself in a photograph?
Many Christians have difficulty recognizing themselves, not because they cannot distinguish faces, but simply because they do not recognize their own identity in Christ. They do not see how their Christian identity should affect everything from their attitudes to their choice of career. Failing to understand how being a Christian should affect the way you think and live is like looking in the mirror and seeing a perfect stranger.
In the early days of the church, Jesus’ followers found it extremely important to be identified with Christ. He was the foundation for everything they did. They lived and breathed Christ, and that fact was very apparent. So much so, that they began to be called “Christ-ians” by those around them. This was used as a term of derision, but the believers readily embraced it and felt honored to be called by the name of their Lord.
The believer’s personal identity was also emphasized by nearly every writer of the New Testament epistles. Peter, for example, opens the book of 1 Peter with a statement of identity: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:1. He offers his connection with Jesus – his eye witness status – as his very authority for writing.
But just as important to Peter was his readers’ understanding of their own identity, so he spelled it out for them in 1 Peter 2:9-10:
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
Take some time this week to contemplate the deep meaning of these phrases: Chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, special people, called out of darkness, people of God.
These are terms of identity, of belonging. If you are a believer, remember your true identity. Jesus has claimed you and thereby given meaning and purpose to your life. When you look in the mirror, the person you see is a person of God, a royal priest, called by Jesus Himself out of darkness. Learn to recognize the face –the face of one dearly loved by the Savior – and then learn to live like the one you’re called to be.
Keeping the faith,