These days it’s cool to use the word “broken” when talking about human sinfulness. There is something down and dirty and real life-ish about the word. It sounds authentic, and as everyone knows, authenticity is what it’s all about these days. “We’re all just broken people,” is what I typically hear, and what I’ve said myself from time to time. And there is something true about the statement. In one sense, sin has broken everything. Our entire personhood, from our health, to our intellect, to our sexuality has been “broken” and distorted by sin. We are not how God originally made us.
I think the term is also helpful when talking about the kinds of people who come into our churches. I want messy, “broken” people to come into my church. People whose lives are so jacked up by sin that their only hope is Christ. People whose families, and friendships, and habits, are seriously broken by sin. I want alcoholics and workaholics and sexaholics and self-righteousaholics to come into our church.
But I think we need to be really careful when we use the word “broken” to describe us as Christians. Our fundamental identity is not as broken people, our fundamental identity is found in Jesus Christ.
We are not fundamentally broken, we are fundamentally new creations in Jesus Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 -
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The old, rebellious, enslaved, “broken”, Stephen Altrogge has passed away. I am now a new creation in Christ with a new heart. So when I’m sitting around with guys at Starbuck’s (yeah I know, totally inauthentic), and one guy says, “Yeah I’m just really struggling a ton with lust right now,” it’s not right for me to say, “It’s okay bro, we all struggle because we’re broken.” (Side note: whenever guys talk in semi-emotional, sensitive ways, we must use the word “bro” to assure ourselves that we really are men.)
What I should say is, “Listen man, you may feel like you are ruled by these lusts, but you’re not! You are a new creation in Christ. You are united to Christ. The old you, that was broken and enslaved to lust is gone. You have the power of the risen Christ in you, which means that you have power to say no to these ungodly desires. You’re not broken – that’s not your identity. You’re in Christ and that is your identity.”
I once was broken. Actually, I was way more than broken. I was dead in sin, enslaved to wickedness, and ruled by Satan. But I’m not broken anymore. I’m alive in Christ. That is my true identity.