You promote by action as much as by word.

You promote by action as much as by word.

Words often say things that we do not intend but deeds are disturbingly accurate measurements of character. Sins of omission are less obvious than overt acts but cumulatively, what we chose to leave undone speaks volumes. These days it’s popular to say that it doesn’t matter what you think, but what you do. Really, what you do is what you think, just out here in the air.

There’s a lot to be said about “being conscious” of something. I know the odd sounding frame can carry all kinds of loose thinking, but if we are doing something, something that we either don’t intend or at least would not do otherwise, shouldn’t we try to see these things?

I used to know a man that would say rude things to his children. One day I asked him, “Why do you do that?” He was shocked, not that I asked, but that it was something he did. He said, “My Dad always did that. I always thought I never would.” From then on he was very conscious of that and as far as I know, never did so again. I wouldn’t have asked just anyone, but in this case the actions had such a dramatically contrary character in relation to the rest of his life that the question begged asking. There was something about it that just seemed so foreign to his general life and worldview. I started to think it was impossible that he actually knew what he was doing or that he knew and did so with conscious intent. He was not trying to produce in his children the actual effect of his words. So what then? Why do it? I don’t know, and really, it doesn’t matter as much as that he observed himself enough to guard his tongue. We can figure out why we do the things we do at a more appropriate opportunity but that we change our behaviour is an immediate need.

This is not to be confused into a runny psychologism but just to guard ourselves from being something that we would not like. We need to be careful to look for causes of our actions, because the cause is the meaning of the effect.

God’s usual method for our sanctification is not to fix us all at once. We are Justified all at once; we are Sanctified through a lifetime. He seems to do so through eras of tempering through experience, trial, ordeal, reward, and learning. Thus we do not expect a perfect Christian any more than we advance a perfect church. But the things that we can do we must do and looking at who we are is never easy.

Becoming a Christian is in some ways like coming out of the dark into a well lit room. We see all kinds of things that were heretofore hidden. Many of these things are delightful but some are disturbing. The worst, I think, are those things within ourselves that should not be so. There are things that we’ve done in the natural life that when the spiritual life begins, go from being badges of honour to hallmarks of shame. The very things in which the world finds glory, we find either morose or empty. The events themselves haven’t changed but we have changed in relation to them. The things that we once held up as the evidence of our greatness become symbols of our guilt. Our loves become embarrassments and our embarrassments joys.

All of this we need to go through in order to reach Christ more fully and in reaching Him more fully, to grow in grace and faith and the good works that flow from them.


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