that’s what the article said, “we are moving toward digital identities,” further stating, “digital identities can help transform the future for billions of individuals, all over the world, enabling them to access new economic, political and social opportunities, while enjoying digital safety, privacy and other human rights.” (WEF Insight Report 2018) Well, that sounds good, I guess. If I receive a digital identity, my future will be transformed. Of course, “transformed” implies something positive, something good, something better. But what if that’s not the case? Who decides what “transformed” looks like? Is it better? and if so, “better” for who? – for everyone or for just a select few?
Even as I ponder the possibilities of this transformed future, it occurs to me that my future has already been transformed as have I, in preparation for it. It’s not a digital identity that makes this possible. It is my God-given identity which transforms me as I await the transformed future my Heavenly Father is preparing for me even now. I read about it in 1 Corinthians –
“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” (1Corinthians 2:9)
A digital identity does not have any power to transform me, but my identity in Christ completely transforms me. 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains it this way saying –
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
So who am I? Where does my identity come from? A government or God? Governments use our fingerprints to identify us for good reason. Our fingerprints are unique to us alone, identifying us out of the billions of people on the earth. But government didn’t issue you or me our fingerprints. God did.
“”For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
My Creator, who knows every star in the universe by name, probably because He created each one, knows me by name too. In fact, He knows every hair on my head. My identity is known to Him because He created me. I am His handiwork. (Ephesians 2:10) He knows the way that I take and He watches over me.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
My God-given identity provides me with worth and security as His child.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
“The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:5-8)
Knowing that my Heavenly Father, Creator of the universe, is watching over my “comings and goings” twenty-four/seven is comforting to me, not creepy. That’s because He is good and His intentions towards me, as His child, are only good.
” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
Comfort, assurance, provision, peace, purpose, joy, hope – these gifts I receive as one whose identity is in Christ. You and I are created in the image of God – our identity is in Him – we are His image bearers.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) And as His image bearers, God blesses us –
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
Since I already have a unique God-given identity, why do I need a digital identity? As I said earlier, it is comforting to me to know God is keeping track of me, but it is more than a little disconcerting to think that government would be doing this as a result of my new digital identity. In whose image would my digital identity be created?
I’m not sure I want my government or any government or any group in power to be “watching over” my comings and goings, what I buy, what I read, what I say, where I go – because I’m not really convinced that their plans are “to prosper me and not to harm me.” I’m happy with the unique identity my Creator gave me. My Heavenly Father never mistakes me for someone else. He knows my name, hears my voice, knows every hair on my head and never leaves nor forsakes me. I am not just a number to Him. I am not invisible to Him.
“O Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:1-5)
I agree with King David, who wrote this Psalm, who then said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,”. Yes how miraculous, that we are known and loved personally by the One who created us! As one created in God’s image I have been given total freedom. I can follow His ways or not, worship Him or not, believe in Him or not, trust Him or put my trust in myself or someone or something else – the choices are mine to make. Our Creator, dear readers, created us as free beings. It is our own choices which often enslave us to other people or things.
Digital identities are supposed to make us freer by ushering in that “transformed future.” Ironically, they will allow us to be tracked and controlled by whoever is in power at the time. Our autonomy will be severely curtailed and we could be denied any number of goods and services based on our digital identity. A digital identity is data driven. You and I will be nameless, faceless – defined instead by the identity groups into which we fit or by the “boxes we check” ie. gender, age, skin color, education, religion, economic group, nationality – anything that stereotypes us as members of a particular grouping of people. With a digital identity, we are not known personally, nor seen as unique, but seen only as members of various intersecting groups. These groups can be marketed to but also can be controlled and manipulated to achieve the desired outcomes of those in power.
A digital identity is impersonal. It obscures our individual uniqueness, in favor of reducing each person to a data point, to a number to be dealt with but not a person to be known by name or on a personal, face to face level. We were created to be known by others and to know others personally. God fashioned us for relationship with Him and with each other. He says in Ezekiel 37:27,
“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” I read the same thing in 2 Corinthians 6:16,
“For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.’ ”
God desires a personal relationship with me and with you, not a digital one. He said He will live with us and walk among us. He knows our true identities because He gave them to us. We are not an intangible, digital identity to God. He knows us completely and has something wonderful in store for each one of us. We are not told what the “transformed future” brought to us by our digital identities will actually look like. We are left to wonder. However, here is a description of the “transformed future” God has in store for us because of our God-given identities in Him –
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ” (Revelation 21:3-4)
that’s a future I look forward to, knowing that God is faithful to all His promises, – no digital ID required, just my God-given identity in Christ Jesus!
sincerely, Grace Day