If you are not familiar with the term “stolen valor” a quick YouTube search will reveal in vivid detail what it means. Stolen valor takes place when someone who never served in the military dons a uniform and medals and tries to impersonate a veteran. There is always something in their demeanor or how they wear the uniform and medals that is a giveaway to a real vet. What makes this kind of thing such a violation is the fact that the imposter never paid for the right to wear the uniform and medals – a right that only comes from the sacrifice of life and limb.
Stolen valor is present in other areas of life to a lesser degree. I saw it as a cop when security guards tried to pretend they were real cops by intimidating people when they initiated fake car stops. Real cowboys see it in city slickers who travel west in the summer and try to act like a crusty old trail hand at a dude ranch. It’s present in the Church when insecurity pushes people to self-promote themselves as the next Apostle Paul or Elijah. They assume others will think it must be true because the title is on their business cards and depicted in the garish images on their website. We are all susceptible to this stuff in varying degrees if we live a life without examination.
Wannabees, imposters and those who steal precious valor each have a common problem. They lack an understanding of their true identity. While they aspire to be what they are not, they are actually revealing their lack of understanding of who they are. In an attempt to be something more they have become something less. After I watched a few YouTube videos of people impersonating a real veteran and finally letting my disgust settle down, I actually felt sorry for the imposters. I hoped the public shame of exposure would lead them to a place of real honor where they could humble themselves, repent of their ways and ask someone for help.
We all need to visit God’s word and read again about our true identity in Christ. The definitions of our identity are magnificent and beautiful. We are so much more than we realize. We never have to pretend. We are seated with Jesus at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. We are in that elevated place of significance because of the shed blood and beatings Jesus wore as the medal of His honor. We don’t have to fake anything. The price has already been paid. In Christ, we possess all the identity we will ever need and as a result of that reality, we can be ourselves and never strive to be anything less.