Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. — Psalm 106:3
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. — 1 John 2:17
One time, when I got the flu as a kid, we rented The Music Man on VHS and I watched it over and over and over…and over. In middle school, I spent a summer in the cast of a community theater production of the same show. And a few years after that, it was my high school’s spring musical. This play followed me around in my youth, and it sort of weaves its way into my thoughts now and again. Today, something called “The Think System” is on my mind.
In The Music Man, The Think System is the phony band director’s fraudulent approach to teaching kids how to play instruments. The idea is if you just think enough about playing a tuba or a trumpet, then you’ll be able to. Of course, you don’t have to be a skilled musician to know that the way to learn an instrument isn’t only to think about playing it, it’s to do it.
I believe I sometimes approach my own discipleship in a manner akin to The Think System…as if growing as a disciple is simply a matter of doing the right interior work. But a life of a discipleship isn’t only thinking about how to love God and neighbor, it’s doing it.
Today’s passages each share that common verb: do. God cares about our behaviors. God calls us to be active and participatory. These particular passages remind us that disciples act in ways that promote justice and the will of God.
Why might action be such an important attribute of the life of a disciple?
- First off, the world benefits from our actions. A musical instrument that’s never played doesn’t do anyone any good; it doesn’t bring any enjoyment to a listener. Likewise, a person who has all the knowledge of how to love God and neighbor, but doesn’t act on that knowledge, doesn’t do anyone any good. God invites us to work with God in building God’s kingdom. When we get out of our heads and do the things God calls us to do, the world is better for it.
- Secondly, we grow by doing. Learning is both an intellectual and experiential process. There’s a reason field work, internships, and apprenticeships are a part of most professional training programs. Our learning is reliant on being able to try, apply, assess, reroute, reflect, repeat. The life of a disciple needs to be one of action, because it’s through experience that we grow.
None of this is to say that our interior life is irrelevant. As Christians, we’re most certainly called to attend to our thoughts—to study, ponder, ruminate, meditate. The life of our minds and hearts is important…but it’s one side of a coin. We’re also called to serve, act, behave, demonstrate, and give—that is, to do this life of discipleship.
When it comes to your life as a disciple of Jesus, do you lean more heavily toward thinking or doing? Trusting that both of these things are an essential, what might God be calling you to incorporate more of in your life in order to grow and to benefit the world?