A defining moment is a point at which the essential character of a person is established. It is an identity-forming event, something that makes someone who they are and flows through to their behavior. It can be an achievement or a failure, something you do or something done to or for you. It can also be something that happened before you were born, such as some national event or family experience.
A signature move, on the other hand, is behavior that sums up and expresses a person’s identity. Its performance distills someone’s character. It is a repeated action that has “your name written all over it.” It is not necessarily original to you, but doing it is the purest expression of who you really are.
Both concepts regularly appear in discussions about the lives and achievements of prominent individuals. Both are also of relevance to understanding groups of people who have shared experiences of one sort or another:
- A defining moment of people born in the 1920s might be growing up in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Accordingly, one of their signature moves throughout their lives would be thrift and frugality.
- A defining moment for Mohammed Ali was winning the world heavyweight boxing title against George Foreman in 1974 in Zaire, the so-called “Rumble in the Jungle.” Accordingly, his signature move was feats of against-the-odds athletic prowess, or to borrow a line from one of his poems, “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.”
- A defining moment for Nancy Reagan was her “Just Say No” speech. Accordingly, her signature move was steely determination.
- A defining moment for Nelson Mandela was his unjust twenty-seven year imprisonment, principally on Robben Island. Accordingly, and perhaps surprisingly, his signature move was the posture of forgiveness and reconciliation.
- A defining moment for Marilyn Monroe was singing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy. Accordingly, her signature move was attention-grabbing actions and performances.
What events define you? And what signature moves express your identity and character?
I could point to several defining events in my life: My upbringing in working-class Sydney, my father’s Austrian heritage, becoming a father, and the opportunity of a Cambridge University education have all undoubtedly left their mark. I’m sure that all of these things have flowed through to my identity, attitudes, and behaviors. Some of the consequences of those “moments” might be my ability to relate to people of all backgrounds, my taste for wiener schnitzel and enjoyment of the odd game of chess, my fondness for “dad jokes,” and my love of learning.
But in the deepest sense, the core identity of being known by God as his children and being in union with Christ brings its own defining moment and signature move. According to Colossians 3, the defining moment of all believers in Jesus Christ is something that happened two thousand years ago: we died and rose to new life in union with Christ (Col 3:1–4). It is that “moment of truth,” the memory of which defines us forever. It changes everything for us. And we would not be who we are were it not for Christ’s death and resurrection.
And the signature move that grows out of that identity is acts of love. Our conduct is to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving, all of which grow out of “love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:14). Just as our identity as children of God was forged through an act of amazing love, so too we are to live lives of costly, selfless, other-centered love. The defining moment of believers in Christ is our identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate expression of God’s love. Accordingly, our signature move is putting on love.
In Christ, we died to living purely for self-interest. Jesus’s death sets an unforgettable example of loving sacrifice as the pattern for our lives. But it’s more than just an example that he has set. By faith we believe that we have died with him. The direction of our lives is set by that defining moment. Living authentically then becomes the task of living in accordance with our new identity and regularly performing our signature move.
It is not that other identity markers and what you do with your life are of no consequence for your personal identity if you are a believer in Christ. Your race, gender, family, occupation, marital status, and so on are important, but they are not all-important. Obviously, life events and experiences can have a lasting impact on your identity and conduct. But at the most profound level, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, what sets the course for your life and keeps it on track is your identification with Christ and imitation of him, and being known and loved by God as his child. Putting on that identity will determine the sort of man or woman, worker, friend, neighbor, father or mother, and son or daughter that you will become.
— Brian S. Rosner, Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity
How to Use This Book
Who are you? What defines you? What makes you, you?
Share Known by God with your small groups and adult Bible studies to answer these questions, and to deepen your understanding of three life-changing realities:
- Being made in the image of God
- Being known by God
- Being in Christ
Readers will discover how being known by God as his child gives our lives significance, provokes in us needed humility, supplies comfort when things go wrong, and offers clear moral direction for living.
“I have a deep appreciation for how Brian Rosner addresses the theme of the knowledge of God in Scripture,” writes Craig S. Keener. “He makes it practical and relational, as it is meant to be. This work is an exegetical treasure trove full of spiritual encouragements along the way. Its message invites us, even ushers us, into the very intimacy with our faithful God that it proclaims.”
Known By God
A Biblical Theology Of Personal Identity