Posted December 13, 2003
Pertinent thoughts on being persons of action from:
The Shape of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church
Authors: Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, pp. 236
Truth must issue forth as action. Any quest for the truth result in good deeds. This was C.S. Lewis’s take on good works. The good deed both leads you to Christ and issues forth from a relationship with Christ. He believed that a genuine effort to live a truly moral life would eventually exasperate you and lead you to the source of true justification: Jesus. He also recognized that those who had already put their faith would express that faith in good actions. Our goal is truth as deed, and the striving toward this truth is its meaning and lasting significance. Messianic faith is imbued with the will to fashion the true community on earth. Its longing for God is the longing to prepare a place for him in the true community.
Heschel puts it succinctly when he says, “Action is truth,” He goes on to say, “The deed is the elucidation of existence, expression thirst for God with body and soul. The Jewish mitzvah (holyh deed) is a prayer in the form of a deed. Te mitzvoth are the Jewish sacraments, sacraments that may be performed in common acts of kindness.” If this is accepted, then the deed does in truth become the life center of religiousity.
At the risk of over-quoting Buber, we believe we must affirm with him that:
Genuine religiosity has nothing in common with the fancies of romantic hearts, or with the self-pleasure of indulging souls, or with the clever mental exercises of a practiced intellectuality. Genuine religiosity is doing. It seeks to carve the unconditioned out of the matter of this world. The face of God rests, invisible, in an earthen block; it must be wrought, carved, out of it. To engage in this work means to be religious — nothing else.
Surely this is no different from the words of James, the brother of Jesus, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Mission is a task! It defines us and gives God’s people their distinctiveness and irreplaceable direction and purpose. To return to the imagery of the Menashe story, mission gives us our name. Any spirituality that attempts to avoid this must surely be a spurious one. An inactive, purely reflective, personal faith is not typical of that modeled by Christ. This isn’t to say that the reflective practices are not helpful. The surely are, but only when part of a broader actional, missional Christian life. In fact, we believe one worships more fully, prays more deeply, and studies more diligently when all are done in the context of a life of action and spiritual momentum.
A helpful illustration of this is that of sailing. In sailing, as in life, momentum is a valuable asset. President Woodrow Wilson once said,
What is liberty? We say of a boat skimming the water with light foot, “How free she runs,” when we mean, how perfectly she is adjusted to the force of the wind, how perfectly she obeys the great breath out of the heavens that fills her sails. Throw her head into the wind and see how she will halt and stagger, how every sheet will shiver and her whole frame will be shaken, how instantly she is “in irons,” in the expressive phrase of the sea. She is free only when you have let her fall off again and have recovered once more her nice adjustments to the forces she must obey and cannot defy.”
Anyone who has ever been under sail will understand what Wilson is describing. When a sailing boat slams headfirst into the wind, she stops dead in her tracks. The expression to be “in irons: says it all. The feeling of a boat at once in full flight than slapped in irons is a jarring one. Once the momentum is lost, its recovery can be slow and arduous. This betrays a clear and simple principle governing movement and inertia. That is, a body in motion tends to stay in motion — and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. We think it no different for the life of a Christian. A life of action, movement, energy and striving is the best place for the reflective practices of meditation, prayer, and reflection.