Undercover Ops and Being "Outed" by Christ
April 13, 2016 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
In law enforcement there’s an effective strategy to catch criminals called the undercover technique. For criminal investigations they’re known as undercover operations; i.e., “ops.” Undercover ops have been dramatized in countless cop shows. Basically, a police officer or federal agent assumes a fake identity and poses as a criminal himself. This enables him to gain the confidence and acceptance of other criminals and thereby obtain first-hand evidence of crimes being committed. Eventually the criminals come to know who the undercover is and realize they’ve “been had.” Case closed.
The undercover will then move on to work against another bad guy in the criminal milieu or infiltrate another group of miscreants. And so it goes until the undercover is “pulled” from undercover ops, out of concern for his safety or psychological well-being.
I spent many years doing such work as a career law enforcement agent. The biggest fear of an undercover is being discovered for who they really are. It’s having your cover blown. Also referred to as being “outed” in covert ops lingo. That was my fear. It was always there inside of me, like a smelly unwanted fish that could unexpectedly leap into the boat and spoil the day while I was out for my catch. Although I have a strong aversion to pain, I accepted the risk, knowing that if my true identity was revealed the outcome wouldn’t feel comfortable, or worse.
But there was something more subtle at play. In a convoluted fashion, my assumed identity as an undercover and my true identity became intertwined. I lived a dual identity with a fuzzy line of demarcation. Success as an undercover translated into success and accolades as a professional. Then the professional recognition fed the honing of still more undercover skills to successfully work in an alternate world of criminality.
I was like a shark that never stops moving lest it die. Fears of exposure as an undercover were equally met with fears of not living up to the successful reputation I enjoyed as a federal agent. In short, my worth and affirmation as a person was contingent upon managing two contrary identities at once. The real catch was hooking the affirmation and acceptance of the two conflicting worlds; that of the bad guys and that of the good guys. This then translated into success and therefore self-worth. Eventually my undercover days ended and I went “overt” in the lingo of law enforcement. No more cover story to be blown. No more fears.
Undercover and post-undercover life has been much like my journey of faith as a Christian. I would imagine it’s much like that for many. I understand that I have the identity that God has meant for me by being in Christ. After all, that’s what God’s Word clearly teaches: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (1 Corinthians 5:17, NLT) How wonderful is that! Gone is the drudgery of finding an identity like a compass with a frantically spinning needle unable to settle on direction.
But is life really that smooth? Even with a new and true identity established, the tendency to jump back into undercover ops can have a relentless pull. The drive for self-preservation in a secularized world can exert enormous pressure to reassume a false identity that’s acceptable. The one for which we will not be thought of as unusual or out of the cultural mainstream. Yet, by doing so we fall into that false security of being managed by a mask. We grab after that “cover.”
For the Christian, God has blown the cover of those He loves by revealing His Son as the Savior of those who are hiding behind sin. And He wants us to also blow that cover since by sending His Son He has exposed sin for what it really is and does. It has caused a fake identity rather than the true one that God created us to have. You see, the way others see us, interact with us, enjoy us, accept or reject us, hate us, tolerate or even threaten and persecute us...is underpinned by one thing. It’s one thing only: how we overtly express and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. God so much desires that our priorities and behavior as new persons be seamlessly wedded to Jesus Christ and the reality of why He was crucified, buried, and rose again.
Now, I long for my true identity to be evident; to be “discovered”—living continually “outed.” Often that means fighting against the tendency to succumb to shaky safety by going “under.” It was dangerous and false then for a legitimately societal “higher purpose;” it’s shallow and false now when its only purpose is denying who I really am in Jesus. Now the only true safety is being seen as a disciple of Jesus where there’s no place or need for a cover backstory with a fictitious name. The only legitimate name is the true one given to me by Him—Christian, follower of Jesus Christ.
It’s no longer a role of switching faces and vernacular for different folks. There’s a well-known saying, “What you see is what you get.” And, how others see you should convince them of what they can get from the only One who has everything to give. And that’s the identity God desires for them to be clothed in. You see, by being in Jesus and committed to His purposes the burden of living a “double life” can end.
The desire of the Christian heart should be to ask, “Do I want my true identity in Christ to be evident, discovered by anyone sizing me up. Or, do I conceal it underneath layers of a false identity that should have ended long ago?"
When it comes right down to it, while undercover I was called by my fake name, now there’s a Voice that calls me by my true one. For sure, there are relapses into a makeshift persona. And they too are forgiven as a result of the Cross. But God, in all His grace and mercy, always closes in. He lovingly “pulls” me from that operational tendency for inclusion into His eternal and glorious overt ops. Before I wanted to hide my true identity, now I desire to reveal it. Case closed.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.