'Even a child is known by his actions, whether his conduct is pure and right' Proverbs 20:11
That was our memory verse the other week. We've been trying to explain to the boys that your actions can betray what you really believe and what you really prioritise. So, it is not enough simply to say that you love God, or that you care for others; we need to show that through our actions. It is not enough to say 'God knows my heart', because so often our actions betray our true attitudes.
Having recently moved to an east African city, the aspect of daily life that I struggle with most is the driving. It is as though there are no rules, and every driver has only him/herself in mind. For example, at a roundabout there is no concept of 'giving way to traffic coming from the right'. If you did that, you would never move, and you would receive abuse from the other drivers around you! Instead, you have to inch forward even when it would not be considered technically your right of way. At junctions, similarly, there seems no concept of giving way to others. You go. And if the two lanes of traffic are not enough, you make a third lane, even if this results in an obstruction to oncoming traffic. As a pedestrian, you have to look both ways on both sides of the dual carriageway, as motorbikes will frequently go down the wrong side in order to get to their destination more quickly. And at peak times, the motorbikes will mount the pavement and show little regard for pedestrians. As I have watched this (I am yet to drive in this city, but walk 5-10 Km daily), I came to reflect on what this shows about worldview. This is a country where about 80% of people would define themselves as Christian. As I watch the driving, I cannot see much evidence of 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness or self-control' (the spiritual fruit described in Galatians 5:22). As an onlooker, it seems very obvious that people are seeking short term solutions which are only storing up more difficulties for themselves and others. And yet, to the individual, what they are doing is (probably) the logical and right thing, and it is likely that they have never experienced another way to drive.
As I reflected, I also wondered how a person from here would react to going to the UK. They might find our driving very ordered and calm (perhaps frustratingly so). But what would they see in our general lives which betray the values we claim to hold dear? I imagine that one of the first things that would be seen as shocking is the individualisation of society - here, every driver is out for himself, but family and tribal bonds are highly valued. Back home, most people live life for themselves, for their comfort, their security, their happiness or their fulfillment, often without regard for the impact on their family or wider society. What about the materialism? How many people in the western world are thankful that their family of six have a comfortable two bedroom house? Or are able to eat more than once per day, even if it is the same food every day? How many people are thankful for a simple life, compared to always wanting that little bit more? Nicer clothes, more expensive holidays, bigger homes with gardens, more spacious and powerful cars? Would that seem strange to a person from the developing world?
Those are two examples that I immediately think of on a societal level. And maybe it is easy for some of us to be confident that these are not problems for us. But what about at the level of your own life? What do value most highly? Is it comfort? Popularity? Success? Being seen as a good Christian? Being a model homeschool family? Living frugally? Or using seeing every single thing you have as a gift from God to be held lightly and used for His kingdom?
How do your actions reflect what you prioritise?
'Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offence in my ways, and lead me in the way everlasting'. Psalm 139