Following on from my previous post, in which I explain why it is no-one else’s business what we are doing for others, for God, or for the world in general, here’s another piece looking at the concepts from a different angle. Maybe you could see this as a companion essay, and use the ideas from both to help build your personal understanding.
First, a bit of background: as with my former post, this piece was written at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at a time of rioting in the USA over black people’s rights. And all over the Internet, the buzz-words and phrases are things like ‘Black lives matter’, ‘White male privilege’ and ‘Systemic racism’. Since I don’t talk politics, these concepts are not going to be the subject of my essay today.
As usual, people from all sides of the arguments – and like it or not, there is always more than one side to an argument, else there wouldn’t be an argument, would there? 😉 – all seem to expect everyone else to support their point of view. This is nothing new, of course, and is simply human nature. What I have noticed, though, is that there have been so many folks on the various social media ‘platforms’, from armchair warriors right up to actual activists, judging and shaming others whom they do not know and, of course, of whom they have no knowledge of their motivation and heart. This was reflected in my previous essay, where I expounded the freedom of the believer to follow the voice of God and so exercise their God-given freedom.
I have seen people judged for posting stuff, judged for not posting stuff, judged for posting the wrong stuff, judged for all kinds of things. I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing this. I have also seen people making false dichotomies; people twisting my beloved English language, which I personally wield as a precision instrument in my blog posts and other writings. To be honest, it makes me sick. One such example is some oik who proclaims that the idea of ‘not racist’ is not allowed; if you say you’re ‘not racist’, then you are in fact racist, however that’s supposed to work*. Great. So, now you’re not allowed to be ‘not racist’ without it being interpreted as something completely different from what it really means – the exact opposite, in fact. It’s getting to the point where there’s no need to have defined meanings for words anymore.
I understand, though, that most of these people are well-meaning folks who are trying to elicit change in society; change for the better. And for the believer who walks closely with Jesus, their refusal to go with the flow, to jump to others’ orders, or to have all their puppet strings pulled by people who are not, and never will be, their rightful Lord; this is always going to result in others’ disapproval and/or persecution. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He warned His followers about persecution, because it’s almost always the case that following Jesus means not following what others expect of you. My friend Joel put it like this, “…it’s like they’ve secretly given people jobs to do, and they’re disappointed when people don’t do the jobs (that they know nothing about)”. Someone else’s expectation of you is always going to be different a) from your own expectations of yourself, and b) from the expectations of the very next person you talk to. If you like, your ‘Action Station’, the place where you are supposed to be when there is any kind of battle going on, is the place where God tells you, not other humans. This is why it is vitally important for the believer to sit in the midst of the storm, maybe even ‘asleep on a cushion’ (Mk 4:38-40), in a state of rest from which all the actions that God Himself wants us to perform will flow. And the world, the unspiritual, will not understand this, nor can we expect them to. 1Cor 2:14-16 says this:
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.”
We therefore cannot expect those who do not sit at Jesus’s feet, listening and learning by His Spirit, to understand our point of view on this, because it is completely alien to them. For the same reason, they are also not in a place where they are entitled to judge you, either, for your actions as guided by the Spirit. In fact, many if not most of your bog-standard ‘average’ Christians cannot understand this either – not because they are not ‘spiritual’, but simply because they haven’t learned how to do it yet. All in God’s good timing.
Let me give you an example. In 1981, I went to the Isle of Iona, a remote island in the Inner Hebrides just the other side of the Isle of Mull. The purpose of the visit was to spend a week there on a retreat at a Christian Youth Camp in one of the most holy places in the British Isles.
I went there with my then-girlfriend (let’s call her Janet for the purposes of the story), who is of Scottish descent, and whose parents – both Christians – had suggested the retreat as a place for us to go to. At the age of nineteen (me) and nearly seventeen (Janet), it was quite an adventure for such a young couple to go to such a remote place, having been dropped off in Glasgow by Janet’s dad and essentially being left to fend for ourselves. But it was an incredible week; the atmosphere and the scenery on Iona and Mull are amazing, breathtaking, and spiritual all at the same time. This is one of those places where the spiritual world is very close to the surface; one of those places of the Deep Silence where you can enter your secret place very easily. I personally left a part of myself on Iona that summer; it will always hold a special place in my heart.
As usual, I digress. Sorry. The youth camp that year was run by a few people who were actually CND activists. CND is the ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’, which needs no explanation, and don’t forget this was at the height of the Cold War. Their brief seemed to be to recruit a set of impressionable young people to their activism cause. I felt at the time, and, looking back on it from 39 years later, I still feel, that I didn’t think those people were Christians at all – although of course that’s not for me to judge. But, certainly, other than using a thin veil of ‘christianity’ (note the small ‘c’) to make it look acceptable to vulnerable and malleable Christian youngsters, they were after recruits. I’m not saying it was a high-pressure sales thing; it wasn’t, or at least I don’t remember it being. But it was intended to get us youngsters to go back to our homes fired up to effect change. Jesus was not mentioned in any of the discussions, except for when they used cherry-picked Bible verses to show that Jesus was a peaceful man or other stuff like that. You’d have thought a Christian youth camp would have had more ‘Jesus content’!
Anyway, at the end of the week, there was a plenary session where we all got together and had to state what we were going to do about what we’d ‘learned’ when we went back home. Now, Janet and I, even at that age, were very spiritual people. We’d each had a very real, and very personal, experience of God. We knew the Voice of the Spirit. And so, when it came to our turn to ‘declare’ to this intrusive bunch what we were going to ‘do’, we said “We’ll pray about it”.
This didn’t go down too well. We were told we were lazy, good-for-nothing; that we needed to ‘do more’, that ‘praying about it won’t actually do anything’. In their incredibly limited, blinkered, narrow and completely unspiritual ‘understanding’, they thought that we meant we would go and ‘say prayers about it’, such was the one-dimensional concept of prayer that these supposedly Christian youth leaders had. They had even less understanding than I did, a newbie Christian of just over a year’s standing. They thought we meant that we were not going to get up off our fat asses and actually do anything active. Their reaction was what would be the modern-day equivalent of the contempt that is shown for the idea of ‘thoughts and prayers’. (If you have a problem with ‘thoughts and prayers’, I understand that, and I recommend you read this article to be informed with regard to my attitude to it).
This was, in fact, a perfect example of the unspiritual mind having not even the remotest concept of the things of the Spirit. What we were going to do, in actual fact, was to determine exactly what God wanted us to do. That’s what we meant by, “We’ll pray about it”. Back then, I didn’t have the personal life-verse of John 5:19, of ‘doing what I see the Father doing’, but this was the precursor to that concept. (I actually picked that up later, in 1986, when my wife Fiona and I trained in Signs and Wonders with the Vineyard team). But that was what we meant.
And what this actually becomes in practice is incredibly powerful. You see, make no mistake, when you get a called believer, acting in the Father’s will and moving in the power of the Spirit, someone who really gets hold of God’s calling on their life; when they grab what God has given them to do and run with it with the commission, anointing and power of God behind them, then no power in this world can stop them, and the results are going to be powerful, life-changing and even sometimes world-changing. Your ‘Action Station’, if you like; the place you are called to be, is the best place to be in, in order for your life to be the most fruitful, the most fulfilling, and the place with the most joy.
In the case of the CND’s ‘call’, God made it very, very clear to Janet and I that this was not our task for that time. And so we did not do any of the things that the CND ‘christians’ told us we ‘should’ be doing, because in God there is no ‘should’. There is just running with His call in the power of the Spirit, which was what we did.
Later, I found that my calling – my ‘Action station’ – was, and is, as an encourager and as a worship leader. They kind-of go hand-in-hand 😉 . When I lived in Leeds, I was well-known, and indeed renowned, in the local area, as a man who led great worship. People came from all over the region to worship at our church because it was so good. And this is what happens when people get hold of their calling and go with it: it bears huge amounts of fruit and blessing for all who come into contact with them. So, you see, to follow the CND ‘demands’ would, for me, have been hopelessly wrong, and would have denied so many people so much blessing, particulary once Fiona joined me in my calling.
And so to come back to today’s problems, and the application of these lessons in today’s environment.
Basically, it’s this: Whatever He says, do (Jn 2:5). It’s as simple, and as liberating, as that 🙂
While it is the standard technique for all ’causes’, whether religious, sociological or political (and probably still including CND!) to try to gather large numbers of people to their ’cause’, this is not God’s way. The Spirit does work in society at large, but Her main way of working is through the hearts of individuals. That’s not to say that you ‘shouldn’t’ join a group of some sort, if that’s what God is calling you to do. But just do what He calls you to do. Jesus is your One and only Lord, not some jumped-up oik with an agenda to recruit as many people as possible. Doing ‘works of faith’ in the Kingdom of God is not about numbers; it’s about calling. Whereas the world’s emphasis is to be ‘seen to be doing’, the Kingdom’s emphasis is actually to not be seen doing anything. Note: I don’t mean to be seen not doing anything at all. I just mean that doing things in order to be seen doing them could be a misplaced motivation. This ‘secrecy of action’ is described in detail in my previous post.
If you are not ‘doing what [you] see the Father doing’, then you are likely not going to be walking in the peace of Christ, because it will feel as though something is missing. Which in fact it is: you’re missing your calling and your fulfillment of that calling. Believe me, there is no place it’s sweeter to be in than right slap-bang in the centre of God’s will, walking in His Spirit and doing His works, whatever those works are that He’s called you to do. This is the path to true freedom. But you can’t make it up; you can’t pretend with this. You and you alone are the one who is capable of hearing God’s call on your life. God calls you by name, to a unique set of purposes and fruitfulness that are tailor-made just for you, incorporating your talents, your passions and your personality. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ with God and His ways.
For these reasons, your actions – or lack of actions – in any particular situation will be determined by your calling. You have God’s permission to listen to Him and to follow His promptings. You don’t need to feel guilty for not doing what everyone else wants you to do. That’s always going to be a different set of demands from person to person anyway, and so you’ll never be able to please everyone at the same time, and nor should you try to do so. You also don’t need to feel guilty for not doing what God wants you to do, either – all you need to do is just get on with it. It’ll feel right. If you feel you need to ‘do’ something, but you don’t know what that thing is that He wants you to do, then you have a couple of choices. The best option is to go with what you feel you want to do. That’s usually a pretty good indicator because, as we have already seen in the Scripture above, ‘…we have the mind of Christ’. Don’t let others understate the importance of that verse, or to deny its reality. If I’m honest, most Christians don’t actually believe that verse about themselves, much less for others. The other thing is to do something – anything – that will help someone else in some way. If you have been moved by someone’s plight, again, that is one of the ways in which God motivates us to ‘be Jesus’ to others, and you would be acting from compassion.
And so this is why it is so vitally important to follow God’s call on your life, and do what you see Father doing. You do not need to feel condemned or guilty because of what others say or think about you. All you need to do is to motivate any actions from the place of your rest in the Presence of God, and your knowledge of His love for you, which is the reason why you have that place of rest in the first place 😀
I’ll finish this on a flippant note.
Sadly, over the last week or so, the thing that has come most into focus for me is that it seems that the entire reason for some people’s existence is solely to judge others, and that usually from the safe side of a computer or phone keyboard.
Next time someone asks me ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ (and no-one ever has!) then, I will put that forward as a possible answer: The whole reason for your existence is simply to judge others. Get on and do it, then 😉
No way that’s right!
Header picture shows the US battleship USS Iowa firing her 16″ main battery in a full broadside to starboard. Note the way in which the wake shows that the recoil of the guns has pushed her sideways in the water, such is the colossal power generated in launching nine 2,700-lb shells (that’s over a ton each) with a muzzle velocity of at least 2,500 feet per second (depending on the type of shell being used). At the point when that photo was taken, her crew will have been at ‘Action Stations’ – everyone knowing what their job is, and in the right place to be in order to do it effectively. So, the Navigation Officer would have been in the chart room, the Captain on the Bridge (or, more likely, in the CIC or ‘Combat Information Centre’, the nerve centre of the ship while in combat), the damage control parties would be dispersed throughout the ship, and the seaman who is the gun-layer for Number 2 antiaircraft gun will have been in his seat on the Number 2 antiaircraft gun, and so on. Hence, my using this picture for the idea of ‘Action Stations’ 🙂
*I’d have liked to have posed this question to the person who unilaterally decided that to say you’re ‘not racist’ means that you actually are racist: I’d have liked to ask him, ‘Are you racist?’
He answers yes, he’s dog-meat. He answers no, he’s racist (by his own definition) and therefore he’s dog-meat. It’s a question to which all possible answers are wrong.
Get out of that one, sunshine…