The great Jewish theologian Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote: “In a free society few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
We are called to act in society. It is incumbent upon us who live in a free society to recognize the gifts of freedom and exercise our responsibility. When an unjust or immoral act is committed we need to rise up against it. Some of us may do it by calling it out on Facebook. For some this may be the only platform they have in feeling as though they have been heard. Others may fulfill their responsibility by working at their church, or meeting a need like working in a hunger kitchen or by working a political campaign or environmental cause or other justice activities etc.
For me, social media can lead to depressing results. I’ve often refrained from commenting because it feels as though nothing good is coming from it. I find myself getting caught up and obsessing over what’s being said and that leaves very little time or energy for taking action. Sometimes emotional entanglements and personal agendas of people can confuse the issues as well and the conversation goes nowhere. I would rather let the actions of my life do the talking. Expending energy screaming about something does very little when one can take a step in the direction of change by using that energy to fight the injustice through action head on.
On one hand, the act of speaking out not only maintains the gift of a free society but also strengthens it. On the other hand, the actions you take will be the ultimate expression in “moving a mountain into the sea” and the ultimate act in establishing significant change. Dorothy Day said, “We can’t just say to the poor ‘go be thou fed.’ We need to feed them.” This critical step in taking action is what makes all the difference in the world. The standards we hold ourselves to and the manner in which we run our lives in taking action will establish a mode of being that will light the course for understanding our place in the world.
Aristotelian philosophy on moral character reminds us, “A character is ultimately judged and understood by what he does, not by what he says.” It’s true. We’ve seen a number of people claim one thing, but when the rubber meets the road, what they say and what they do are two different things. We’ve all seen the character in the movies that lies to another in the name of getting what he wants. We ask ourselves how could that person have fallen for those lies? The character has lied before and he’ll lie again.
As Christians, we are called to be consistent in our lives and ethic. I was raised to believe that it’s important to be a man of your word and let your actions speak for who you are. “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” I sometimes catch myself and say, “Is what I’m saying I believe consistent with the way I act?” Discernment on our part in recognizing this values gap is a necessity.
There is always the argument in Christian communities about how one attains salvation. Does one attain it through faith or works? For me the answer is both.
St. James recognizes that our salvation will come through works. Our faith is informed by the work we do. How we exercise that faith in the treatment of others says a great deal about who we are as servants of Christ.
Whatever the case may be, inward reflection about what is good and bad is critical to our understanding of the world. Sadly, too often we’re distracted by life to take the time to reflect on them. Sometimes we just end up responding rather than making a difference to change the problems. Life’s challenges take us away from deeper reflection. We respond to what we need to and act to the best of our ability when a situation arises.
Speaking or sharing your faith is one thing, but living it through works is another. Let your word and action be one in the same and strive to make this world a better place with all your heart and might. Even if the steps are small and the ideals are big. Our society needs it more than ever.
Consider the following:
What issue is calling you to go deeper at this moment in your life?
Is your belief about that issue consistent with Scripture? Why do you believe that?
What makes you mad about that issue and why? What is your anger telling you about the issue?