The more I desire to be active with my faith the more I realize the thin line between activism and self-absorbed acting. It’s a difficult line to see because part of me care very little about intent and thanks God that the action is there at all. For instance, a family goes to another country on a mission’s trip. They come back and rant and rave that they bought this for one person, helped build this, gave money to this person. It becomes almost a walking commercial about how great they were and how much they could give to these people. Now most of our first reactions would be happy at first and then you get tired of their constant need of approval and soon after you get annoyed and start believing that they are just doing it to make themselves feel better or a slew of other reasons.
I find myself doing this a lot lately; feeling a certain way towards someone depending on why they did something. It is all rooted in me believing that why is more important than the what.
Leaving all that behind, there is one thing that we are forgetting; the people and families that they actually helped. I spend so much time being upset about the selfish who parade their accomplishments for everyone to see that I forget to see that in the end, there was actually someone helped. If I had to pick between my poor neighbours having a meal for the night from a loud-mouthed-look-at-me-Christian or not having a meal at all, I’d probably have to lean to the former.
This is why it’s so hard to be a leader sometimes. What do we do? Do we try to lead and influence people to have hearts that are in tune with God, graciousness and love? Or do we try to lead people to physically give people relationship, shelter and food? Do we teach them about what God wants, or do we set them up to do what God wants? What would I prefer, a group of Christians opening up their homes to the homeless for a 20 day revival project with no hope for it to happen on their own, or not open up their homes at all in the first place. Is it ok for something to get done even though the motives are wrong? Is it my job to help shape motives and hearts or is it my job to lead by example and help shape people’s actions.
Growing up in church, shaping people’s actions was of the utmost important. Tell them to not have sex before marriage, don’t drink, don’t swear, read your bible, memorize scripture and there is no need to tell them why. As I pulled away from that teaching I started to realize that the heart was way more important. People need to believe things at the core of them, if they don’t believe it, what’s the point? If they don’t have a heart for the poor, then don’t give to them, after all Jesus wants a cheerful giver. Give them passion and the actions will follow.
Now I’m starting to be drawn back to the other, or maybe it’s more down the middle. Maybe my job is to shape thinking and action. Maybe both follow each other. Maybe they both push the other depending on which starts out first. Maybe it’s ok to have a group full of people who share their lives together in a Christian community yet have no clue why they are doing it, because maybe the understanding will come later. And maybe it’s ok for some people to have a perfect idea of a Christian community in their head, and not be currently living in it because the action will follow their belief soon enough. Maybe what’s going on in my head is just a typical deeds or faith debate and there is no winner only an awkward tension between the two.