READ: Nehemiah 1-3, Psalm 142, Luke 10, 1 John 1
BEING AND DOING
We often hear the pithy phrase: “Be, not do!” This thinking is also summarized by a similar statement: “What we do flows out of who we are” or “who we are is more important than what we do.” This type of thinking is wrongheaded–not because doing is more important than being, but because it imposes a false dichotomy. You cannot be without doing.
God is what He does; He does what He is. God is good because He does good. God is love because He loves. God is merciful because He acts mercifully. God is a giver because He gives. It seems too simplistic, but in essence you can’t theoretically be something without doing it. God is love because in the Trinity Father, Son, and Spirit actively love one another and their love spills out over all creation. God is light because His radiance emanates from Him proactively and there is no passive darkness about Him at all (1 John 1:5). God is love and light because He loves and lights.
Man is because of who God is and what God does. My doing does not flow out of my being, because I am not love, I am not light. Anything good I do flows out of God’s being/doing. I exist because God made me. Anything noble or righteous I do is because God has empowered me to do it. What naturally flows out of me is corrupted and vile. If I love, it is certainly not because I am inherently loving; it is because God is/does love and His love resides AND acts through me. We are told in Scripture to “be a doer of the Word.” In Luke 10:25-28 a lawyer is encouraged to live by doing love: “Do this [love God and neighbor] and you will live” (v. 28). We cannot be love without doing love. We become loving by acting out (doing) the love of God. We become who God wants us to be by doing what He commands us to do. Yes, God changes our hearts, but we participate in the process by obedient acts. Without active obedience there is no lasting transformation.
One thing is needed. Luke 10:38-42 reminds us of how being and doing are codependent. Mary sits at Jesus feet and hears His word (this is an activity, not a passive nothingness), and Martha is distracted by much serving. Jesus reminds her that one thing (in the midst of a worried and troubled world) is needed: The active doing of abiding in Jesus. Abiding is not “being”–not if being means passive nothingness. Abiding is the active lingering in the presence of Jesus and the active obedient encounter all day long with Him in all that we do. The “one thing” Jesus says is needed is a prioritization of Him, an extravagant and ongoing communion with Him. Abiding is doing Jesus–doing Jesus because we are ever with Jesus.
If we are not with Jesus constantly, then we are doing without being–and as the world has ever realized, this only leads to emptiness.