by Pastor Pete Vander Beek:
It has been challenging to narrow down what to say in my last meditation. I think I’ve succeeded, but still, it will be a little longer than most.
In town halls and other settings I’ve taught a lot of material. In sermons and meditations I’ve shared teachings I’ve found in scripture. Today I want to reflect on one teaching that summarizes what I believe Jesus taught and demonstrated, but it is not specifically from one quotable verse. Here are the biblical foundation verses that I see pointing to it:
- Exodus 3: 15 – God’s intimate identifier revealed to Moses “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be”
- “I will be your God and you will be my people” found in many forms in various places. See Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28 and more.
- “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 10:25 followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan.
- After Pentecost especially, God’s people are “led by the Spirit” (Acts 8:29, 9:17; etc; Romans 8:14 & Galatians 5:18)
The phrase I distil from those verses (and others) is: “Let your doing flow from your being.”
That phrase has been and still is a hard one for me to lean into in faith. I keep gravitating back to doing. To the thought: “I have to do that, I am a Christian.” Actions I have planned or strategized to keep or retroactively earn God’s favour. There are lots of forces that encourage such an approach. But God calls us, in his Word, to “be” first, and to let the doing part of our lives flow out of who we are.
Here’s how I get there:
God’s intimate identifier is the verb “to be” stated in a way that makes two main translations stand out, one in the present tense and another stated as a future one. There is also a hint of the meaning “I have been who I have been.” God’s identity is “being” itself! That’s point one.
God’s desire is for restored relationship with people, all people. People cannot restore the Adam and Eve broken relationship on their own. God had to reopen it, through Jesus. Faith in Jesus, not “doings” reconnects us. That’s point two. Point three was a huge turning point for me, a moment of spiritual awakening when I was in my early 30’s.
God is not looking for the right “doing.” If we are asking what we need to — “must” — do to participate in life eternal (or the Kingdom of God here on earth), we are approaching the question wrong. We readily and repeatedly turn that into legalism and self-saving. No, God is asking us to join him in being… So the parable Jesus tells in response to the question of “what must I do?” shows a way of being, not a way of doing. The Good Samaritan’s way of being (compassionate and generous even though he did not understand the law properly according to Israelite religious understanding) is held up as the way to “be”. Who he was in his character caused him to “do” the right thing, when the priest and levite in the parable, who knew the law, used it as a reason to not show compassion and generosity. Their doing of the law (not touching a possibly dead body) kept them from being what the victim needed. See the difference?
God asks us to lean into God, then just “be” and God’s Spirit will direct our paths, our doings. This is what the post Pentecost writers explain. The coming of the Spirit, as Jesus promised, gave them an inner guide, a quiet, undemanding, small voice, that they learned to recognize and follow. And great things happened. Huge risks were taken for God’s glory. Big changes came about. See Acts 10 for just one example. All this because they stopped thinking and acting from a framework of doing what they “had” to do to keep the rules, and started being the image of God, restored by Jesus, guided by the Spirit. When this is going on in the lives of people, when they live out the ways of the Kingdom of God and not the ways of the Kingdoms of this world, Heaven is brought to earth.
It is how I try to live my faith, and fulfill my Kingdom calling. The portion of my life journey where I do that at Christ Community Church has come to an end, and I will continue to pray for you and follow with interest to hear how God fulfills the potential you have, for his glory. “Be” his servants, and let your doing flow from that.