“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name? ’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers. ’ (Matthew 7:21-23, NRSV)
I read on Facebook that there is a movement called the RAOK Nation. RAOK stands for Random Acts of Kindness. Likewise there are churches who have started this ‘fad’ entitled ‘Radical Hospitality’. In the former example, the Facebook based movement appears to be designed to promote good deeds (are you ready) without the desire for recognition. Go figure. In the latter example, the practice of Radical Hospitality is the attempt of some churches to ‘aggressively’ reach out to visitors, guests and random persons to make them feel a part of the community. Another way to attract people to their worshipping community.
In both of the above examples, you get the emphasis on good practice, with horrible motives. They show Christian behavior without a Christian motive. The basic conundrum is that these movements take what is principally Christian normative behavior, something we are to be, and make it to a goal or motive toward an end. Hospitality is a fundamental sign of Christian belief, Christians are to be hospitable to all they come across. To turn that state of being into mere behavior for the purposes of growing your church is to violate the message that hospitality is communicating. To take a random act of kindness and make it a movement of recognition is just…….stupid. It ceases to be both random and a genuine act of kindness when you target someone for an act in order to receive credit.
These movement, (and others like them) exemplify the failure of effective teaching and shepherding of the 21st century church. Misunderstandings abound about everything from Halloween to “turn-the-other-cheek.” Church ministries, pastors and Christian communities have failed to do their part in educating and challenging societal and theological misconceptions about the work, word and worth of Christian living. What results are disciples who spend more time focusing on the minutia of litmus tests around doctrine, behavior and political ideology instead of reading the Bible, questioning our traditions, and challenging the status quo.
Apparently this is not the first time that disciples have focused on the wrong thing. Nor is this the first time the teacher has been concerned about the student going astray. The above passage from Matthew 7 comes from a long passage of instruction by Jesus after the initial statement of the Beatitudes. In this corpus of instruction to the disciples and the gathered throng, Jesus spends time teaching on prayer, forgiveness, the Law and a whole host of other topics. Towards the end of this teaching, Jesus makes a qualifying statement about all who has already stated. In verse 21 he makes a dire warning to those with false motives saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Essentially, there has to be some purity of motives and unity of behavior for the one who seeks entry into heaven.
Of greater significance to me in the passage is Jesus’ statement of the self-deception that many persons (including the disciples) will engage in, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’” This is a profound statement about our motives and the intention of our actions. We spend so much time looking for a particular behavior and/or response from believers and Christ is saying behavior is not enough. Likewise, confession is not enough (Lord, Lord). Jesus statement should force us all to constantly check our motives and actions.
Jesus is asking each one of us to examine why we do a thing. We are not called to be duplicitous or manipulative in our behavior. This includes performing a RAoK just to be seen doing good, or performing hospitable acts in order to be remembered for them. Jesus calls ones that perform such behavior “evildoers”. Our churches should be about more than merely good behavior. Our church members should be known for more than trying to grow the church. Our faith is about being Christ in the world today. Christians should be known for being what they want in the world, instead manipulating the world for their own ends. Manipulation, even for the kingdom, is still manipulation and the motives are not genuine.
We follow Christ because of who Christ is and not just because of what he does. Every miracle, every teaching, every pronouncement of Jesus was predicated or precipitated by a belief in his work as the Christ, the son of God. If we in the 21st century have become so focused on feigning acts and measuring belief, then we have ceased to believe in the work and being of the Christ. Remembering that Christ was/is in order that he be all God intended is fundamental to being a Christian, period. Being the Christ as he was in the world is the only way this world can get a vision of truth in a crazy, mixed up world.