Gregory Peck made more than one movie about an assumed identity. That plot device is probably popular because it appeals to our curiosity about being somebody different, or how we would act if we were. Many yearnings including this one, can be traced to some profoundly spiritual truth.
Peck and Audrey Hepburn star in “Roman Holiday,” (1953) a movie about a princess weary of her official duties and expectations. She assumes the identity of an ordinary tourist, but Peck, playing the reporter, figures it out. In “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” (1947) Peck again plays a journalist. This time he accepts the challenge of writing hard-hitting articles to expose anti-Semitism. So he poses as a Jew for an insider perspective.
The intriguing idea of being someone else hints at the Christian life that many encounter only after years of trying to live it. Who wouldn’t want to be in touch with your “better angels” or to “be all that you can be”? So we try, but sense something is still missing. Do the phrases “I need more of God in my life” or “I’m going to live for God” really express the most profound meaning of the gospel of Christ?
Authentic Christianity means assuming a new identity. Some of your personality may remain but you have exchanged your life. It’s not a life that has only “turned over a new leaf.” These words express something quite different: “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 6:11, Col. 3:4). The profound spiritual truth is that Christ is your life. In Him, you assume a new identity! It is not just that you can be better, but that you can share in the divine, eternal life.
Major W. Ian Thomas served in the British Expeditionary Forces in Belgium in WWII, and died just a few years ago. After the War and for decades he effectively promoted Christian education and personal spiritual growth. But in his early life he was ineffective. One evening, he sensed the Lord saying, “For seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you. You cannot have My life for your program. You can only have My life for My program!” And so he finally understood the exchanged life.
Living the life of Christ means rest (Heb. 4:10), such as rest from trying to do what only God can. This is amazing grace, that God would work in and through you, so you can live the life of Christ!