Do you ever struggle lining up who you actually are with who you—and others—say you are? Patrick Schlabs of St. Peter’s Church shares what he’s learned about personal coherence and the role of grace in our identity as believers.
Over the past few months, I led our church through a complete overhaul of our branding and communications. The process was a long time in the making and I had a million ideas on what should or could be done. Because I didn’t have any prior training, I spent quite a bit of time reading books on branding in general and church communications in particular. The most helpful of these was a book called Coherence. The premise is that the focus of non-profits should be brand integrity, or what the author called coherence. He defined it as the alignment of who you actually are, with who you say you are, with who others say you are. When these three elements are in consistent agreement, an organization achieves coherence.
While this idea helped to frame the conversation for our communications, I began to realize that this principle had a far wider application than simply non-profit branding. The idea of Coherence could be used for many things in life and leadership, and even as a lens for sanctification. Coherence should be viewed as a goal of Christian discipleship. As followers of Jesus, who we are should be reflected in who we say we are, and that should also be who others experience us to be. Unfortunately, this is not often the reality of my life.
I struggle with personal coherence. Who I actually am is not often appealing. I’m ungrateful for what I have and desire what I don’t have. I fail to cherish those who matter most and ignore those who matter least. Rather than being honest about who I am, instead I portray a false reality. I mask my weakness, hide my faults, and even lie about my struggles. I speak words that sound humble and gracious, while neither are my true intent. Understandably, this leads to internal strife and outward hypocrisy. Who I am and who I say am, simply don’t line up. I do this because I forget who I am in Christ. And by failing to remember my true identity as a son of God, I fail to walk in a manner worthy of that call.
But the good news of the gospel is that who I actually am and who I say I am are both superseded by who Another says I am. For in the great exchange of redemption I am declared righteous by the blood of Christ and seen by God the Father through the lens of Christ’s perfect obedience. I am in fact, a beloved son of the Living God. More than that, the Spirit testifies to this truth deep within my heart. When I’m reminded of this truth and awakened to its reality, I am encouraged to walk as if it were actually so. Though most of the time, who I actually am is conflicted at best, and hypocritical at worst, I’m grateful for the glorious news that my truest identity is found in grace. It is only here, that I find true coherence.