Changing our identity most commonly happens in marriage, where one or both individuals change their names to go forward together. It's a statement of partnership. But it happens in other spheres of life as well. If you join a company, you may be given a visual ID card with the company logo and your photo for all to see. And in some occupations and trades it's quite common to wear a sweatshirt with the company logo. Even supporting a particular group or cause may be an occasion to wear its name. There has been a recent fashion for T-shirts and sweatshirts to bear dramatic slogans which tell the world who or what we are aligned with.
In the armed services it has long been the tradition that to take the pledge and wear that uniform. Distinctive uniforms take back over 200 years. Soldiers belong to particular arrangement. And seamen serving in the Royal Navy under a distinguished and wealthy captain of the 1800s Napoleonic War era were often dressed in the captain's own livery. In the modern British navy, ratings have a uniform hat with a ribbon showing what ship or branch they belong to. And even the drab khaki uniforms which British soldiers wore in the First World War and subsequently, carried a regimental insignia. It was often a local identity — a county regiment— and there was a certain pride in the identity which showed where you belonged.
My passport also declares my allegiance and my identity as a subject of Her Britannic Majesty of the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Until recently there was the contested additional identity of belonging to the European Union.
Someone who has lived a life of crime will have a criminal record which is an identity that follows them wherever they go, making employment and neighbourly relations difficult. Occasionally someone who has decided to plead guilty and give evidence against other members of a gang may be granted immunity from prosecution and a new identity to start a new life in a new place, free of the old associations.
Which is an interesting lead in to this verse which is all about pleading guilty before God and being granted a change of status and identity:
[God] is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.
Ephesians 1:7 NLT
Jesus gave His life — "the blood" stands for His death — to pay the price for our sin. When we come before God and 'plead guilty' to our independence, selfishness and lack of regard for Him, and acknowledge our belief in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, there is a spiritual transaction. We discover God to be a fair judge, who does not dismiss the gravity of our wrongdoing, but with Jesus, our defence counsel speaking for us and how our penalty has been paid for by Him, we find God to be a very kind judge who grants us a freedom we don't deserve and could never earn.
We can understand better how we become free of the past, by looking at other good translations of this verse — read on to Part 2: The Bible Message of Freedom.