Sow a character and reap a destiny

[notice]A monthly column by Marcel van der Watt, lecturer in the Department of Police Practice at UNISA, former police detective, and current member of the Gauteng Rapid Response Task Team for Human Trafficking.[/notice]

Called to respond to injustice, degradation

Being ambassadors of Christ truly is an amazing calling. As part of God’s infantry, we are summoned to respond to injustice and moral degradation. We are mandated for a divine battle, a noble purpose and the opportunity to experience victories which have eternal significance.

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Do we deserve what we tolerate?

Our role as Christ’s ambassadors should seep into every stratum of our existence. Unlike an 8am to 4pm office job or the uniform we take off after a 12 hour shift, this role becomes our identity. Infused by God’s superior scriptural promises, our calling as ambassadors has the potential to mould a Christlike character and emancipate us from the fleeting pleasures and shackles of sin. It steers us into a heaven-bound destiny.

Life and Doctrine

Timothy cautions us to be conscientious about our life and our doctrine for “in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). The analogy of an aeroplane is often used to illustrate this verse where ‘life’ and ‘doctrine’represent both wings of the plane. If either of the two wings is missing the plane will most probably plunge with life threatening consequences to both the pilot and the passengers. Our doctrine is unequivocal about sin, injustice and the modern-day immoralities we are exposed to. As Christ’s ambassadors we therefore have an active role in society and cannot remain passive or keep silent when there is an onus on us to respond. Sadly, in the contest between our flesh and the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17), we often allow elements of complacency and passivity to get the upper hand without considering its reverberating effect on the society we live in. Consider the following scenario:

The Jones’ household
The Jones’ is a middle class Christian South African family. Jonathan and Maureen have been married for 20 years and have two children, 17-year old Tamryn and 19-year old Justin. As a law abiding family the Jones’ aspire to do what is right. In his role as a businessman, Jonathan’s work ethic is exemplary whilst always maintaining a good credit record and making sure his taxes are up to date. Tamryn and Justin were raised to respect their fellow man, work hard at school and to realise the intrinsic value of virtues such as honesty, discipline and loyalty. Despite being a seemingly ‘model’ family, the Jones’ have systematically slipped into a state of complacency, passivity and ignorance of some very real social issues rearing their ugly heads within the society that they live in. As a family they choose to ‘mind their own business’ whilst occasionally making fun of the married men and ‘pensioners’ who visit a prostitute living in their townhouse complex. Their next-door neighbour, Derrick, is known by many in the complex to be in the business of selling stolen car parts which he sells at a reduced price to residents living in the complex. Although Jonathan by no means endorses the illicit business his neighbour is conducting, he does however feel sorry for him. Derrick has a 3-year old daughter and an unemployed wife – ‘where else will the money come from?’ Jonathan convinces himself. He cannot afford a high maintenance friendship and therefore never made an effort to introduce himself to Derrick or to get to know Derrick’s family. During the evenings the Jones’ are glued to the television. The highlights of the day usually include the primetime news during which the family gather together as ‘problem solvers’ of the current issues faced by South African citizens. The Jones’ are increasingly characterised by cynicism and resentment which, in harmony with the ‘mind our own business’ approach, systematically sharpens their skills as armchair critics.

Selective engagement
This scenario, or at least elements of it, plays itself out in so many of our lives as modern-day Christians. We do not have the luxury as Christians to choose between faith and actions whenever we feel comfortable to pursue the one or the other. Similar to a double edged sword, faith and actions are inseparable. As James put forward: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). We are often selective in the societal and moral issues we engage with as Christians but are quick to resent the consequences of issues we initially tolerated or chose to ignore due to complacency. Do we deserve what we tolerate? Surely not everyone is gifted to perform large scale advocacy campaigns or called to the mission field in far off countries, but every ambassador is able to make his/her voice heard, disseminate God-given wisdom and understanding or lend a helping hand to someone in need. Whilst we have the privilege to make a difference in this world, let’s be reminded of God’s kindness in our lives, and nurture a character which embodies both faith and actions.

 ‘Sow a thought and you reap an action;

Sow an act and you reap a habit;

Sow a habit and you reap a character;

Sow a character and you reap a destiny.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson


One Comment

  1. Wow! So, so, true. Challenging and convicting…and also inspiring. Thanks Marcel!