Our Actions reveal our Cruelty and our Charity
Posted On March 13, 2023
We have words and we have actions. Humans are pretty good at using words. We can master words for our own purposes. We can shape them. We can manipulate them. We can make them do all sorts of things. We can make them appear to be one thing, while they cover up something else. We can say one thing with words, while we do something else that completely contradicts the words that we just spoke. We know that the words can be empty.
But actions are much more difficult because we’re wired so we become uncomfortable when our actions contradict the core of who we really are. In fact, we won’t act counter to who we really are. That’s why if you really want to know what someone really believes, watch them, don’t bother to listen to them. They will tell you all sorts of things. But words can be manipulated. It’s the actions that can’t.
If you want to know what people really believe, pay attention to the what they do. Watch how they treat others.
It’s not an all or nothing type of thing of course. But there is a spectrum that we are all on. At one end of the spectrum is cruelty and the other is charity. Cruelty can be defined as action with intent to cause pain and suffering of others. Charity can be defined as action with intent to ease pain and suffering of others. Those are simple definitions, but for our purposes here, they work. Throughout life, we move back and forth along this spectrum, sliding along it. It’s a slippery spectrum. Our words slide along it as well and it’s a beautiful thing when our words and our actions are in alignment, but that’s often a rare moment. Our words are often more aspirational, while our actions are more practical in nature. Not always, of course.
As Christians, we go and worship God. We offer praise and worship to the Almighty, saying all sorts of wonderful things. We listen to amazing words that talk about the image of God in humanity. We hear about love of neighbor and enemy. These words certainly fall on the charity end of the spectrum. But that’s not in all churches.
There are plenty of churches in which God is a wrathful judge, full of hatred and anger, ready to spite and condemn. Worshippers hear about condemnation of a whole range of people. How truly sad that is. Where is the Good News in any of that? Who is set free in that kind of message? The words spoken are based on fear of hell, anger, division, wrath, and ultimately cruelty towards others. No wonder the actions that come out of are actions of cruelty. When your god is a god of anger, fear, and cruelty, then you are being a good disciple to walk in his way, aren’t you? How in the world is this life giving in a way? It’s not.
As Christians, we need to deal with our past, which we haven’t dealt with, let alone acknowledged in most cases. A past that, if we don’t deal with it, will just keep getting louder. That’s how the body works after all.
When the human body is dealing with disease, we have to listen to the body and what it is telling us. Ignoring it is never a good option. It will make itself louder so that we will listen.
The church is the Body of Christ. The body is trying to tell us some things, and we haven’t been listening. The sicknesses in the body are racism, white supremacy, comfortable Christianity, consumerism, empire, money, white Christian nationalism, partisanship, attachment to nation, injustice, and more.
But these aren’t just the past. This is now too. The body is sick. It’s making noise to let us know that it needs proper attention. That the body has been poisoned by numerous things over such a long time. And that these poisons are toxic and that the body has to get them out. And it will do anything to get them out.
I wonder if part of that expelling of the toxins is the act of shutting down the body in order to kill off the poison, the disease, the toxins. To reduce the body down to essential functions in order to suffocate out the toxins and the poisons out of the system. Maybe it’s the body’s way of treatment, if medication won’t be applied externally. A type of cleansing from within.
I don’t know about any of that. But I do know that if we are going to face cruelty, that we have to embody charity. We have to not just take on the right words. We have to embody those words and what they mean. We have to take them in to our very being, soak them in. We have to see that charity is the way of God, not cruelty. How we see God has to change. Because that’s where is starts. If our concept of God and how we encounter God is based on fear, anger, and cruelty, then forget it – we will be toxic, angry, cruel people. A scourge on humanity. We will pass cruel legislation designed to inflict pain and suffering, and do it in the name of our cruel god. How absolutely terrible.
But if God is a God of charity, then we are made in God’s image, and seek to follow God’s lead. We are called to embody charity. To impact charity on others in various ways. And the world experiences healing.
So the question is this – what’s the point? Is the cruelty the point? Or is the charity the point? Don’t bother telling me. Show me.