In the 2005 smash hit movie Batman Begins, the titular character Batman states or rather growls, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. In other words, his actions, define the person he is. It’s the same in real life too. When you go to a party, the first thing people usually ask is, “What do you do?”. People seem to become defined by their jobs, by their actions. For instance, people will say “I’m a lawyer”. That almost immediately conjures up images of working 80 hour weeks, late nights and not spending much time with their family. But the question is, should we be defined by the things we do?
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As Christians, we try to avoid talking about doing things. This hesitancy probably stems from a verse in Ephesians where we rightly point out “We are saved by grace, through faith and not by deeds so that no one can boast”. Being saved isn’t about doing good things. But, funnily enough, we tend to forget the stuff is in the next verse which states, “For we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. James sums it up quite nicely when he says, “Faith without deeds is dead”. So, whatever the answer to the question, at this point, it should be pretty clear that our actions are most definitely important.
So, if the things we do are so important, what sort of things should we be doing? Is it going to church, reading the bible, praying and maybe performing the odd miracle or two? Let me tell you, it is pretty tempting to answer yes. While those are no doubt good things to be doing, they are not the mark of a true Christian. Jesus calls people who perform miracles and do not know him evil.. He criticizes the Pharisees who were doing all the right stuff. Jesus even says that sacrificing your life without love means nothing. What’s he getting at? Apparently, it isn’t enough to just be doing the right things. You can’t just go through the motions. All these people were doing some pretty amazing stuff, and yet all these people were called out by Jesus. In a nutshell, there has to be something more.
What is that? It becomes fairly clear when you hear the words, “They worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”. Being a Christian isn’t just about the things you do, its about your heart. What is far more important is who you are underneath. The things you do shouldn’t be what defines you, rather it is who you are that should define what you do. At one point, in both Matthew and Luke say “Out of the overflow of your heart, the mouth speaks”. This point extends to all your actions. Your actions should flow from who you are. Not the other way round.
The question then becomes who are you underneath? The answer should be, “One who follows Jesus”. But that can be a pretty abstract concept and pretty difficult to get a hold of in terms of what it means to follow Jesus in practise. Look at the characteristics of Jesus throughout the Bible. Put a name to these qualities (note qualities and not actions). Generous. Compassionate. Pure. Gentle. Humble. Whatever. Choose to imitate these qualities you see in Jesus. Never be willing to compromise. Your heart will be changed to be more like Jesus, because you can be confident that confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. As this process is ongoing, who you are underneath will come to define you and the actions you take.