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Food for thought: We do what we believe

From The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God by Dallas Willard:
One of the greatest weaknesses in our teaching and leadership today is that we spend so much time trying to get people to do things good people are supposed to do, without changing what they really believe.

It doesn't succeed very well, and that is the open secret of church life. We frankly need to do much less of this managing of action, and especially with young people. We need to concentrate on changing the minds of those we would reach and serve. What they do will certainly follow, as Jesus well understood and taught.

But in our culture there is a severe illusion about faith, or belief. It is one that has been produced by many centuries of people professing, as a cultural identification, to believe things they do not really believe at all. That goes hand in hand with the predominance of . . . client, or consumer Christianity . . . . Thus there arises the misunderstanding that human life is not really governed by belief. This is a disastrous error.

We often speak of people not living up to their faith. But the cases in which we say this are not really cases of people behaving otherwise than they believe. They are cases in which genuine beliefs are made obvious by what people do. We always live up to our beliefs--or down to them, as the case may be. Nothing else is possible. It is the nature of belief. And the reason why clergy and others have to invest so much effort into getting people to do things is that they are working against the actual beliefs of the people they are trying to lead. . . .

What has to be done, instead of trying to drive people to do what we think they are supposed to, is to be honest about what we and others really believe. Then, by inquiry, teaching, example, prayer and reliance upon the spirit of God, we can work to change the beliefs that are contrary to the way of Jesus. We can open the way for others, Christians or not, to heartily choose apprenticeship in the kingdom of God.

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