Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:13 (NRSV)
Action has a great public relations agency. People want to be active not passive, engaged not distant; they remember the folk wisdom that “actions speak louder than words.” But action without a prepared mind is dangerous.
Don’t just stand there, we say, do something. Much of what we do when we are just “doing something” is pointless. Actions without intentions – and action without humility – can fools us into thinking we are “doing something.” Such action is a short-term solution to life’s long term.
Unprepared or unmindful action has become tyrannical. It is divorced from reflection, and after the divorce we all suffer. Whether it is the speed of work, the emails at home and at work and on the subway, or the way “we have become the tools of our tools” as Thoreau said, action is overblown. It has become something that puffs us up while exhausting us.
The old-fashioned way of talking about this dilemma is to contrast works and grace, the way our doing (even of good things) can conflict with our way of being grace-filled people. If you think it is all up to you and you work hard to do good, you are in danger of thinking your works have saved you and not your faith.
Sola fide, only faith, say the old-timers. And they had no public relations agency at all.
O God, when action threatens to get in the way of grace, permit us conscientious objection to joining its military. Amen.
Adapted from Donna Schaper’s devotional in This Is How We Begin, a resource of devotionals to use at the start of church committee meetings. Order This Is How We Begin here.