Christians believe, however, that neither what we do nor what we suffer defines us at the deepest level. Though the way we think of and treat ourselves and the way others think of and treat us does shape our identity, no human being can make or unmake us. Instead of being defined by how human beings relate to us, we are defined by how God relates to us. We know that fundamentally we are who we are, as unique individuals standing in relation to our neighbors and broader culture, because God loves us – to such a great extent that on the cross Jesus Christ, God incarnate, shouldered our sin and tasted our suffering.
Even more, by opening ourselves to God’s love through faith, our bodies and souls become sanctified spaces, God’s “temples,” as the Apostle Paul puts it (1 Corinthians 6:19). The flame of God’s presence, which gives us a new identity, then burns in us inextinguishably. Though like buildings devastated by wind and flood, our bodies and souls may become ravaged, yet we continue to be God’s temple – at times a temple in ruins, but sacred space nonetheless. Absolutely nothing defines a Christian more that the abiding flame of God’s presence, and that flame bathes in a warm glow everything we do or suffer.
Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2006). 79.