“Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become… habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny.”
I can say, in all honesty, growing up in a socialist family I was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher or her policies or her Government. The woman took my milk away and yes I hold a grudge about that still.
God can speak to you through the most unlikely of people though. I lead a prayer meeting with my home church once a week and I usually start with a quote from popular culture that reflects something in scripture. These prayer meetings have been running for 80 weeks now and I’ve worked with quotes from authors, movies, cartoon characters and musicians and poets and historical figures. I happened to mention that I needed a challenge and was challenged to begin with something from Margaret Thatcher. It was a challenge but while trawling through quotes from her I came across the one above.
We sometimes forget the power of words and actions. And we forget the power of thought to influence our words and actions. It’s kind of like the old song “Dem Bones”, everything is connected. To the world around us we are what we do, we are our actions. If our words and actions do not reflect each other we lose trust. As Christians we speak of a loving God and of His love for us. Do we reflect that in our behaviour, in our actions? Our actions in demonstrating love should become habits and when it becomes habit it becomes second nature, it becomes a part of who we are, our character.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that kind, generous, loving people do not shout about what they are doing that is kind, generous and loving. It is those who are unhappy that shout loudest. You can particularly see this with respect to the church if you look at the news and social media. Barely a day goes by without some revelation about Magdalene Laundries, abusive behaviour by evangelical leaders, paedophile priests and vicars and more. Yet the church as a body is filled with good people doing great things. What do we do?
Primarily we need to encourage each other. When our good thoughts and words become actions which become habits which, in turn, become our character we will be moving in the right direction. When we are aware of something good that the church is doing we need to draw attention to it. Not to ourselves but to the work God is doing through us.
Secondly, growing from that, we need to take ownership of our story. We do that by acknowledging our faults and mistakes, not hiding them or excusing them. When we own and apologise for wrong behaviour, which ever part of the church it happens in, and when we act on that apology we will begin to take ownership of our story and to reflect Christ in it. The world at large does not differentiate between Catholics and Protestants and Evangelicals; all they see are Christians. The horror of the Magdalene Laundries does not just reflect on the Catholic Church in Ireland, it reflects on all of us. Westboro Baptists picketing the funerals of American soldiers reflects on all of us. Subjecting LGBTQIA people to conversion therapy reflects on all of us. And what reflects on us reflects on our God.
I think it is time we owned our own story, we took responsibility for our collective failings and corrected them and repented of them and celebrated our actions that reflect on us being the best we can be. Highlight the big and the small. From welcoming a new neighbour with cake and kindness to fighting against slavery in all it’s forms. Let’s stand as the church Jesus modelled, one that welcomes people in their weakness and brokenness and by doing so opens a space for God in their hearts so God can change what He needs to see changed.
Good words, good thoughts, good actions, good habits, good character all reflect God’s true nature. Do we want to shine a light reflecting God’s true nature?