Actions Speak Louder than Words

I had one of those flashes of insight the other day. You know the kind that comes from deep within and it's like a light bulb went off in your head and all those dark corners where things were lurking suddenly are exposed to the light and you can see what's really there. Mine happened while typing a response to a message in a forum I frequent. It's a wonderful forum where the hostess, although devoutly Christian, encourages all beliefs to speak and to explain their faith. She stands for no verbal harassment from Christian, pagan, atheist or anyone "in between." As is usual in these types of forums, there are a few posters who are interested only in preaching their own brand of faith— mostly Christianity.

Please understand I have nothing against Christianity, and I think that Jesus was the most loving individual that has ever graced the face of this earth and his life is a wonderful example and one I seek to model my own after. But for many Christians, that's not enough. I have to believe what they believe or I am damned to hell. And they take every opportunity to point this out to me (and any who don't follow their brand of Christianity.) When questioned as to why they feel so compelled to preach, they respond with Biblical passages that extort them to spread the Good News and to the fact that Jesus called his disciples "fishers of men."

Anyway, as I was typing a response to one of the self-proclaimed preachers, this passage of Jesus calling his disciples "fishers of men" suddenly came to mind. How exactly do fishermen catch fish? They throw out nets, they bait hooks, they "herd" the fish with boats or slapping the water with paddles. Or maybe like some whales they encircle schools with "nets" of bubbles. The point is that they take some action. They don't stand in their boats or on the shore and preach to the fish and tell them why they should allow themselves to be caught. They get out there and do it.

How much better it would be to my way of thinking if those Christians who feel compelled to "preach" would instead "do" according to their faith. Rather than preach to those who are not seeking to be preached to (or at), get out and do what Jesus did— LIVE LOVE. Not once do I recall in the Bible any story of Jesus gathering people to him and preaching to them. The stories I recall are of the people gathering and Jesus teaching (as opposed to preaching to) them. The people came to Jesus— he did not go to them. He did not seek out "sinners" so that he could preach to them.

In fact, many of those mentioned as his closest associates were the worst kind of sinners in Jesus' day and age. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute (according to standard Christian teaching— not a teaching I believe). And yet Jesus did not preach to her. He showed her Love instead. He accepted her and held before her the image of all that she could be. And he allowed her the choice to listen or to not listen.

Not once is there mention in the Bible of Jesus condemning those who did not listen to him. Not once is there mention of him forcing his beliefs on others. The stories that show him healing the sick or raising the dead are not him out there demonstrating (as many televangelists do) his "specialness" by healing others. In fact, in most cases (I'd say all, but I shy away from absolutes), he says something akin to "Your faith has healed you." He doesn't say "Your faith in ME has healed you." And I think that distinction is very important— it indicates that faith is a personal matter between the individual and God.

In the course of this little revelation of mine, it also came to mind that the only things I do remember Jesus condemning were judgment of others and hypocrisy. The issue of judgment is one that can be very tricky. We all do it— every day. When hiring a baby sitter, for example, you have to rely on your judge of character as to whether or not to hire someone. Someone who uses drugs, for example, may be no threat to your children at all by him-/herself. But because they do buy drugs, and you don't know anything about the people they buy drugs from, you don't know if one of them might go psycho and come hunting down your sitter while with your kids to "payback" a perceived wrong. So to use one's judgment in instances like that is not only normal, it is prudent. And yet time after time in the Bible we're told not to judge. "Judge not lest ye be judged." "By what measure ye judge, so shall ye be judged." "Remove the plank from thine own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from thy brother's eye." So how to resolve this conflict?

To me, judging means holding one up to a standard and determining whether they meet that standard or not. The question becomes, by what standard do you judge another's actions? There are only two options: your standards and their standards (remembering of course that "your" standards might, according to your faith, be God's standards.) And there are two situations in which you can judge another's actions: in areas that affect you personally and in areas that do not affect you personally. That gives us four possible scenarios.

In matters that affect you personally, you must use your own standards. For example, when hiring a nanny for your kids, if being a Catholic is wrong in your eyes, then because this person will be spending a great deal of time with your children and will be instilling in them a certain degree of morality, then you may not want to hire a Catholic to be nanny to your children. Judging by another's standards could very well put you or your children in danger. If your standard is "Don't drive if you've had any alcohol whatsoever to drink", then to trust another's standard, which may say it's okay to drive as long as you can still stand is pure folly and dangerous to yourself and/or your kids. It is your responsibility to look out for yourself and your children until they are old enough to look out for themselves. Therefore, to use another's judgment for your actions is foolish. It also is an attempt to release one from personal responsibility. "He said it was okay to drive as long as I could still stand" is not going to fly as a valid excuse to any police officer. So what about the other two scenarios?

When judging another's actions when they have no affect on your life personally, they must be judged by the other's standards. This is the only way one can determine if one is a hypocrite— by judging him/her by his/her own standards instead of by your standards. If I believe that painting my toenails purple is wrong, and I were to call you a hypocrite for painting your toenails purple, you (and everyone else) would rightly laugh at me and call me a bit loony. But if you said that painting your toenails purple is wrong and then go ahead and do it anyway, to call you a hypocrite is a valid statement of fact— because the very definition of a hypocrite is one who claims something is wrong only to partake in the activity him-/herself. Jesus condemned hypocrisy, but the only way to determine one is a hypocrite is to judge them by their own standards. Therefore, this kind of judgment is not the kind that Jesus condemned.

This leaves us with only one "judgment" scenario - and by process of elimination, it is the one that Jesus was condemning: that of judging another's actions when they do not affect you personally by your own standards. And it would seem to me that a follower of Jesus would seek to follow his guidance and refrain from making such judgments. But each week on shows like the "700 Club" and other televangelist programs, we hear how gays are immoral, how those who remarry after divorce are immoral and on and on. It makes you wonder whether these people are preaching the "Good News" or just seeking to get "Good Reviews".

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