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IDENTITY THEFT

 

All Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless noted otherwise.

Be self- controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls

around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

― 1 Peter 5: 8 ―

 

IN THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT everyone enjoys a clever impersonator. That almost uncanny ability to mimic the voice, the appearance and the mannerisms of another for the amusement of an audience, often highlighting the victim’s recent blunders or scandals, earns for the skilled performer a popular renown and a profitable career.

 

But sometimes it is done merely for innocent fun. At rallies, carnivals and charity events, Elvises may be seen of all shapes, sizes and ethnic origins. Charlie Chaplin is easily recognised, and a would-be Marilyn Monroe sometimes appears, greeted with wolf whistles. So laughter is good medicine, and funds are willingly donated for worthy causes.

 

When done simply to entertain, impersonation is not intended to deceive. But as a legitimate security ploy used to safeguard important figures at public functions, it is intended to mislead potential assailants. In the business of espionage false identities are skilfully created and maintained, often for years, in the interests of secrecy.

 

Identity Theft

Impersonated celebrities have to tolerate with resignation the mockery that so delights an audience. It is the price of fame. But when the objective is not comedy but malicious deception, and you yourself may be the victim, it is no laughing matter. Identity theft is a world-wide phenomenon. It is obtained through computer and telephone fraud and the theft or cloning of personal documents such as passports, driving licences and credit cards. Although greed is an obvious motive, an overriding lust for power may be another driving force, and identity fraud activities are also a primary source of funding for criminal organizations and terrorists.

 

In the United Kingdom, under the former Labour Government, a National Identity Card scheme was implemented in 2006. Intended to tackle fraud, illegal immigration and identity theft, but it was criticised for being too expensive and an infringement of civil liberties. There were misgivings on all sides, and at the change of political leadership in 2010 the scheme was abandoned.

 

Safeguarding One’s Financial Privacy

Experts advise us that the best protection against identity theft is vigilance. We should never let our debit or credit card out of our sight. Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should be memorised and never kept with a credit card. Cash withdrawal slips, bank statements and other revealing documents should be torn up or shredded before putting them in the rubbish. Social Security numbers, bank details and any other personal information ought never to be divulged without checking that the request is genuine. Internet transactions should be carried out on secure sites, and then only with accredited companies having the proper safeguards, and whose privacy policy can be verified.

 

More distressing than the loss of money, serious as that might be, is the impersonation of the victim’s identity. The criminal activities of the thief may be attributed to the innocent party, whose reputation is thereby seriously damaged. Banks, Social Security offices and all other involved bodies should be alerted quickly, and professional help should be given to halt the fraud and limit the damage.

 

The Great Deception

Impersonation of a different sort, and on a much larger scale has been perpetrated for thousands of years. It affects the entire human race, though relatively few are alert to this massive and malign fraud masterminded by the great deceiver, Satan, the criminal usurper of Divine authority (Isaiah 14: 14). Jesus even dubbed Satan ‘the prince of this world’ and described him as ‘the father of lies’ (John 14: 30; 8: 44).

 

Characterised as a ‘serpent’, Satan put his plan of deception into action in the earliest days of human history. His strategy was then, and is now, that of propaganda. In Eden it sounded good to Eve, who was seduced into believing the cleverest lie that was ever told – you will not die! And the ruse was so successful that millions still believe it. The most skilful disinformation discovers what people want to believe, drops the hints, gives it credibility, and suppresses sound reasoning. Satan has supplanted in the minds of the majority of mankind the supreme position of the Almighty God, a blatant theft of identity.

 

That God in His wisdom has for a time permitted the deception is undoubted, but not all are deceived. Of course, Jesus was not deceived. Craftily tempted by the Devil in the wilderness to bow down and worship him, and offered the spurious rewards of renown and influence ― a portion of the devil’s own ill-gotten power and glory, Jesus responded: ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”’ (Matthew 4: 10).

In sharp contrast of character, near the completion of His first advent mission, Jesus prayed: ‘And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’ (John 17: 5). No acclaim, no elevation, simply a return to the blessed fellowship of Father and Son. His disciples heard and marvelled, and some years later the Apostle Paul set forth their Lord’s example of humility as a pattern they would do well to copy:

‘Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient [even] unto death, yea, the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2: 5-8, American Standard Version).

 

Establishing One’s Identity

How do we define our own identity or satisfy others that we are who we say we are? Sometimes a utility bill is acceptable as proof. A passport, a medical card or driving licence is good evidence, though in some cases a birth certificate may be demanded. From these, the sex, age, ethnicity and general appearance of oneself may be verified.

 

But data on a printed document, even a so-called ‘identity card’, does not convey any idea of the person’s character, which is at the foundation of his or her true identity. Documentary evidence may be illegally copied, forged or stolen, but character can never be convincingly captured and transposed to another individual.

 

So what makes each one of us so special? We might ask, Who am I? Why am I me? Or even, Could I have a double? Identity is the continuing sameness of a person, regardless of changes in appearance, intellectual ability or demeanour, which the passing years may modify. King David asked in wonder: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?’ ‘You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalms 8: 4; 139: 13, 14).

 

In setting in motion the human reproductive process, the Creator did not plan for a race of cloned beings. Even identical twins have unique characters and detectable genetic differences. Nobody has a true double! Our Lord’s assurance to the disciples that ‘Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered’ (Matthew 10: 30) may well indicate not only the Father’s care for our every need, but also His intimate knowledge of our essential personality. So, who are we? The awesome reality is that as believers, justified by the shed blood of our Saviour, we are God’s offspring, and must live accordingly.

 

Safeguarding One’s Character

Just as we should not be careless with our financial or social identity, we should safeguard our integrity as a follower of Christ. Our demeanour as Christians is closely observed by unbelievers, and as ambassadors for Christ we have a tremendous responsibility. If we could keep this thought always in mind what dignity it would add to our character! This is not to say that we shall be popular or sought after by all. The usual experience is that the Lord’s followers are treated rather with caution, and often avoided.

 

But since our commission is to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of Christ, to win others to the faith, why shouldn’t we make ourselves comfortable in worldly company and share in their activities? After all, even the authoritarian Apostle Paul declared that ‘To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some’ (1 Corinthians 9: 22).

 

In such things we should exercise caution. It is a matter for constant prayer and vigilance. Many worldly pursuits are harmless and, yes, we do owe family and friends a share of our time and interest in what pleases them. However, the Adversary often appears as an angel of light and knows full well how best to lead us astray, using those whose companionship we value. Some of our pleasant acquaintances may even be the ‘publicans and sinners’ of today, good-hearted maybe, but addicted to sinful life-styles and godless behaviour, in which we cannot share. Remembering that ‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers’, our safest course is to shun bad company (Psalm 1: 1).

 

The Lord has established our own unique identity as one of His children. Let us guard it well!

 

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts’ (2 Corinthians 1: 21, 22).

 

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Copyright September 2010 ukbiblestudents.co.uk

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