This is why I do what I do.

A friend emailed to ask me for a story I had told him a few years back. It lead me to answer the big question.

Why do I do what I do?

I have had different motivations for why I have worked in missions and international relief and development work for as long as I have.

This lead to an interesting exchange on work, motives, the meaning of life, God, mission, compassion, and motives.

I posted the exchange here:




Hey pal,

I was looking on your site for that story about bad motives… the guy befriending you only to sell you something etc. Couldn’t find it. Could you tell me what section of your website that story is in, or, if its not there, could you send it to me. I writing a little thing on motives and thought I could use it to illustrate. Thanks!


Hey Steve, here is the link to that post

“A Casual Deceit”

Feel free to use it, you may recognise yourself as ‘the friend’ in the story.



Thanks Mark. Just gave it a read and I think I’ll use it. You’re a good writer. I’ll be sure to reference!

I’m putting together what will eventually be a book, but is presently a five session seminar on the subject of evangelism. It’s called E-Quipped, and I’ve taught it before, but am trying to make it better.

I’m working on a bit right now basically saying that our motives matter, and that a good deed is only as good as the motive behind it. I believe compassion is to be our primary motivation and am trying to put together an inspiring definition and explanation of compassion, what it is, what it looks like, and where to get it.

Got any thoughts on this one?


Hey Steve,

Definitely! These are my disjointed thoughts. I realize that when I type I tend to forcefully suggest my point of view, so read this with my friendly tone in mind …

I went through a struggle in terms of why I do what I do. I started in obedience, moved onto feelings (ie compassion), thought about ‘because it is good for me‘, and ended up in love, which is a good place to be.

I think that many people start to do mission work out of obedience to God. I have also seen how this can quickly devolves into contractual relationship, I serve God because he loves/saves/helps me. It can also become self-righteous salvation.

Those kind of people are painful to hang out with.

Feelings such as compassion dull. to work ourselves up into feeling for others, to ‘feel their pain’ is sort of a weekday talk show Dr Phil-ish way of rose colouring the world. Try as we might, most of the world does not feel this way … and when they are forced to – they resent it.

Third reason – ‘because it is good for me’ (brocolli and immunization needles) tend to last as long as a promise to quit smoking for many people. Just because it is good for me, isn’t enough!

So why do I do what I do. I think it is the reason why you do what you do. The same reason why anyone does what they do. It’s quite simple.

I do it because I want to. I love it.

I cannot help but do it. Others don’t feel this way and I am fine with it. They get to love other stuff, like accounting, which sounds like the seventh level of hell to me.

I believe we need to stop trying to convince others to do what we were created to love doing. We are different for a reason. It has been described by our ancient text in this way, “if the whole body was an eye, then where would the sense of smell be. We are all part of the human body. Find your place in it.” (paraphrased of course)

So the absolute best and healthiest thing that anyone can do to start this process is to find out what you love. Find your passion. Before you ever try to convince or inspire others to join you, find out what you would give up so much other stuff in order to live.

If I am honest, and I occasionally try to be, that’s my motive for doing what I do. I love it. Is it pure enough? Is it noble enough? Probably not, but it is why I wake up and look forward to my day.

Steve, I might just blog this interaction if that is all right? Respond in the comments?

Mark Crocker


Hey Mark,

Sounds good, I will


October 12, 2016

13 responses on "This is why I do what I do."

  1. How cant people get confused by the ego and the truth?
    we are loved and needed regardless.we must become as we were meant to be.Not into our selfish needs but for those that need a hand and a heart to heal.
    the message is clear: God is love.Love is not God.

  2. Mark you said “If truth is not lived, then it does not exist.” Are you saying that God stops existing if we stop believing in him or living for him? You seem to be saying that God is dependent on our actions in order to bring the kingdom of God. God does not need us, he is not a contingent being, he is necessary for our existence and now for our salvation.
    “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” That is a truth statement about the reality of our sinful nature. It does not matter what good actions we do unless we have received the gift of God which is really salvation from Hell “where the worm never dies”.
    You are watering down the gospel with you clever emergent language, when I read your blog it sounds like you are saying nothing at all. You are taking the Bible and saying that because it could become a form of idolatry we should not base our beliefs on simple truths of Scripture. That is like saying that you will get sick if you eat 3 heads of broccoli so you should just stay away from it altogether. Mark you are coming so close to be heretical here. If you don’t think it is important to ‘accept Christ’ then I may as well go join the Unitarians because they sound a lot like you are sounding.
    The truth is Humans who have a heart of stone need a new heart if they are to spend eternity in relationship with Jesus. That can only happen if Jesus gives them a new heart of flesh. Please don’t water down the gospel to the point where, you come to Jesus at the end, you say, “but I fought against Aids, and I did all these mission trips to poor people and I helped so many people, I acted the right way” And God will say “I never knew you, because your heart was far from me, like a white washed tomb that does all the right actions like the Pharisees but inside their heart is full of deceit and sin.”

    Why do you think that Jesus when he saw the paralytic said first ” your sins are forgiven you” and THEN said “so that you may know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, rise take up your bed and walk” Jesus dealt with the real issue first, social justice is important but it should never cloud out the central message of the gospel, that we are dead in sin and need a savior to die for us to live for us and to intercede for us. If you simply go on doing social justice and never even speaking the truth, it seems that all you care about is the present and not for the dying Aids victim who also has a heart of sin that must be made new. The actions accompany the message , but they are never a substitute. I say this in love because I think you are leading people away from the Centrality of the Gospel.
    Thanks for listening.

  3. no worries about putting this on hold until another time … i understand about being busy …

    got any good leads on a publisher? or a magazine editor who is accepting?

  4. I really enjoyed reading your last one. It made more sense to me than any of the others. I think that your interpretation of truth ‘clicked’ a bit more for me when you said “Truth is what happens when honesty, openness and vulnerability are revealed.” I like that a lot. I can see what you mean in the sense that living by ‘truth’ has as much to do with being real (true) in relationships as it does by being right (a more principle oriented version of truth) in our beliefs and actions, and I find your faith inspiring. Thank you.

    I am afraid that due to an enormous time crunch that I am facing (I have a seminar to finish preparing for this week) I can’t give this blog a whole lot more of my energy right now, and after your last one I feel like I owe you something more!! I find this very enjoyable and I spend a lot of time thinking about it, which is why I need to pull away for a bit and finish this project that I am working on. You really should write a book though. I know that the time that you are putting into these thoughts is not wasted. That last blog of yours could easily be a great chapter of your book!

    Thanks for all the time you’ve spent with me on this. I’m sure it has amounted to many of hours for both of us. Lets do it again soon. But you’ll still have to be Neo, if that’s alright with you!


  5. Not to nit-pick your analogy … but is the sky blue? All the time? I find that about half the time it is black pinpricked with points of light (night), at the beginning and end of the day it is often yellow, gold and orange/red. In London it is often gray. Sometimes in Africa the sun shines so hot that it is white. Up at 42 000 feet as I crossed over Greenland, it was purple …

    I am not trying to be facetious (maybe a little) … but so much depends on perspective. ‘The sky is blue’ is a similar phrase, but not the same phrase as ‘the sky is often blue.’ For most practical purposes, the short-form is acceptable, but not if you are an artist – for then you must relearn to actually see what is, not what you expect to find. “The sky is blue” is not, in each and every case, true. That matters.

    Another example that you might relate to, remember the Ethiopian flag, remember how they use ‘lighter colours’ for their flag? Even that choice of word ‘lighter’ reveals our concept we have surrounding primary colours … our cultural myths have us see them as the ‘solid’ colours, the ‘correct’ colours …

    Coloured by our worldview
    My comment was that your perspective, and mine, are so deeply coloured by what you see as fundamentally ‘the right way to see the world’ that we cannot help but see it from this way. Every community generally believes in the same worldview together, and therefore it works very, very well for them.

    For example: As a culture we tend to think in terms of time as a limited commodity. We spend and save time, we can waste time and redeem it. Time is money. Every day we are given so much, and we need to use it wisely as it slips from our fingers.

    Other cultures see time as abundant resource. Every day we are freely given more time, it never stops flowing towards us, we can never use all of it, because it is such an enormous resource – a little like trying to swallow a river.

    If everyone in our limited-time-commodity culture sees time in the same way, we may debate how late is too late … but we all generally agree that being late is wrong, and we judge who is on time or late according to the clock on the wall.

    Another culture may see this way of viewing time as absurd or even rude. Who is to judge that an arbitrary clock can define the right time to start a meeting!? Perhaps the best time to start a meeting is when everyone is there, and after everyone has had a chance to catch up on the important news of one anothers life. To start a meeting at the stroke of a digital battery is heartless and uncaring. We start on time, which means, when all are ready to start.

    Now we can debate what each of those societies may look like; what development may happen, or what depth of relationships can form in each one … but that is not the point. My point is simple, every culture has a very, very loud unspoken voice as to what is right and wrong.

    The statement ‘it is important to start on time’ is absolutely correct for both. But the way that this is interpreted is completely different for both. Now which truth is more correct? Who gets to decide how to interpret what that means? Combine power with one culture, and guess which view is soon seen as the right view.

    I am not upset at my Greco-Roman worldview … i am not devaluing it, or ignoring it. I appreciate the stunning breadth of value it brought to the world. I am not angry at the enlightenment, with the new values of individuality that were developed – I am simply saying that this is NOT the only way that works in perceiving the world. It is not somehow ‘better’ to value the individual more than the community … both work for various societies, and both have extreme drawbacks.

    Yes, our way (one of many ways) to value truth is to consider it in the antiseptic light of a laboratory. A thought experiment like Plato’s musing of which would succeed in the end – “a good man who appears entirely evil, or an evil man who appears entirely good” is a fruitful exercise. It at least keeps the philosophers working …

    Truth as Incarnation
    I am afraid that attempts to explain truth merely as a principle are shallow. This viewpoint somehow diminishes the full breadth and depth of understanding possible. After all, God did not send a theology, he sent a child. It is only through the life of His Son, that truth took on flesh and dwelt among us for a while.

    Someone once wisely said, ‘Through God, the Word took on skin and bones and walked with us. Then theologians stripped the flesh and left us only with the words.”

    I stand by my statement that actual truth is only found in the intersections of relationship. Like community – it cannot happen as a concept, it can only happen in the space between persons.

    Truth is what happens when honesty, openness and vulnerability are revealed. We can discuss the ramifications of that truth in principle, but the experience makes it something more than conceptual … this is a creative act (and we are made in the image of the One who authors creation), truth is a personal action, an opportunity to become.

    This is not some sort of ‘it’s all good … what you believe is for you, and what I believe is for me’ philosophy. I believe that kind of attitude numbs our relationships – where we refuse to actually engage with the ideas of one another. The open conversation where we are willing to change our vantage point to attempt to see from the perspective of someone else, is one of the toughest realities of life.

    It is the furthest thing from a dynamic faith community when we lob words at others, holed up in our towers of belief afraid of a dialogue that could challenge our perspectives! The conversations of a community should challenge us, respectfully, with the complete understanding that we are in need of the other vantage points of others as we believe they are of ours – even, I daresay, other faith perspectives. If we value community, we must value full, wild, authentic conversation.

    Of course not all vantage points are as good as every other. Not all truths are valuable – a few that are found in our own history are fairly awful. In my view, the Scriptural hope of Truth is revealed in how it pulls people towards relationship, or how it pulls them apart.

    Truth is not relative in the sense that there is no compass or bearing, there are actual truths in this world, but even philosophical truth is only revealed in actual relationship. A concept is nothing but the vapor of a single mind … truth is found in the intersections of interaction with people.

    It is too easy to consider Truth as an impossible ideal of the philosophers, an ideal from the ascetic on a mountain-side, a guru beneath a tree, or a Jesus that only appears to be Human (but actually hovers a mere breath above the earth).

    This version of perfected ‘Truth’ often means in practical implication, that Truth is merely an ideal. Important but not vital.

    When Truth is viewed as a philosophy, we essentially operate from the perspective that it does not really matter, philosophers are always changing their ideals. Theology is constantly modified. Even before we begin attempting to live a true life, we know we cannot live up to the ideal. This way of viewing truth sounds eerily like the Jewish version of living up to the Law – an externalized impossible code that some mistook as the purpose of faith, rather than the practice of faith. A practice which Jesus constantly revealed as merely a signpost towards a God-honoured life, not the purpose of life.

    Grace then becomes a mask, covering our wound, not healing it.

    I am not arguing from the perspective of Truth as a philosophy. I do not think that the point is whether or not the purity of Truth can be perfectly determined from Scripture nor practiced by anyone. I am echoing the thoughts of others that suggest that a mental formula about truth is far less important than the actual practice of truth in relationship.

    Interpretations of truth – Shifting foundations
    All truth is interpreted. Take, for example, the great truths of Scripture. Gather 12 scholar/apostles, ask them to determine how to interpret a Biblical passage, and you will be sure to find 13 philosophies.

    The methods by which people will evaluate the text are quite diverse: historical context, the feel of the Spirit, the democracy of Christian community, expert opinion, as principles from God’s lil’ instruction book, scientific evaluation, absolute literal, modern textual analysis. I believe that it is most common for us to combine several of the above methods into a personal interpretation guide. We may begin with 50% historical context, add 10% of a sense of the spirit, listen to 15% expert opinion, and polish it off with 25% principle – whatever your ratio, it is yours.

    And this is why truth is complex, it is too easy to say “I believe the Bible” when in a moments notice, you can recite a dozen names of people you feel are interpreting Scripture falsely. Everyone is saying ‘I believe the Bible’.

    So here we come to the slippery slope argument, if there are different ways of interpretation …then are you suggesting they all are right!? Or worse, that there is no way to interpret … or that Scripture is less important in some way

    For some reason – many people shy away from voicing the truth that people interpret the Bible in vastly different ways. It is not enough to ignore this issue, and go my own merry way. That attitude is as relativistic (your truth is yours, and mine is mine) as any other method you might want to write off as postmodern liberalism.

    But this does not make it less important, but in fact it positions Scripture in a much more important position. The voices found within the pages are a clear record of men and women struggling to interpret their lives and faith with one another through God – stories of the attempts to find Truth. It is fundamentally a story of relationship, and while there are principles in a relationship … there can never be a user manual. We are not automatons. At all times, we carry the world both as it is, as well as what it can be.

    Every action, belief or reaction we carry changes (creates) a new universe. What once was possibility, now exists – and existence matters. We can rail all we want against what we think should not be, but we live both in a present world of actualities, as well as understanding we have a vista of possibilities in front of us. To live only in the present, diminishes our creative side, and we leave the world to chance. To live only in the future, ignores the world as it actually is, and we live ivory tower like false lives of the mind. As human beings we are able to hold to both sides of our person – present and future (while using the stories of others in our past as guides)

    Some people suggest that the foundation for their faith is Scripture – Sola Scriptura said Luther. But we recognize through the thousands of schisms since that even Scripture can be misused – and you know it often has been!

    Yes Scripture is important, but do we use hyperbole to prove that value? After all, Scripture interprets itself as ‘useful’. A tool that is useful, means that the purpose is for something else. A shovel is not ‘useful’ if it is in pristine condition, shiny, bright and smooth. It is useful, when it is digging. Scripture is useful when it reveals us to God, and God to us.

    A Relational Theology
    What then is the foundational standard on which we place our faith? For me, it must be what Jesus answered when asked the same basic question, “What then are the most important laws?” what do I base my life on?

    The answer was “Love God entirely … and love others in the exact same way.” A remarkable way to sum up the Gospel.

    This speaks to me of a relational theology. What is your chief organizing principle, by which you determine the value of something? Is it in a timeless principle, or in a relationship. It seems to me, that the way that Jesus related to others was through relationship first and foremost. His was a relationship-guided voice – in fact he shouted at others who attempted to turn the Prophets into mere principles.

    A principle is a boundary, in which we are free to explore the margins – the very edges. To determine what is in and what is out. Get enough people exploring the edges and of course the boundaries will be in dispute at all times. Everyone will debate the actual boundary stones, but the edges are hard. Crossing the line is an obvious step. (bounded set)

    A relationship differs. A relationship is a focus in which we are free to get closer to the centre. We intend to learn more about the ‘other’ in a relationship. The centre of the relationship is firm, but the edges are soft. It may be difficult to see when someone ‘crosses the line’, after all – how do you know when you are a real friend? (centred set)

    Of course both of the above metaphors for faith can be disputed, and debated, but for me – a faith based on relationship ‘feels’ more like Jesus (and I am completely aware that this is as subjective an answer as others who ‘feel’ like faith should be centred on principle). For me, a faith centred on relationship holds together with less obvious holes, it loves people to God, and welcomes beautiful relationship.

    Which brings me full circle to truth. I believe truth is only found in the intersections of relationships. Truth cannot exist as an invisible concept, floating ‘somewhere out there’. Truth is more of a verb than a noun. The statement ‘God is truth’ is correct because in Him there is no division, he exists as truth personified. When we meet Him, we face the truth of our lives.

  6. I think we agree on far more than we disagree. I completely see eye to eye with you on your last two paragraphs but, as hard as I try to see things from your point of view, can’t embrace your entire view of truth. A few parts of it seem to me anyway (and as I’ve said I’m often wrong) too weak, too wishy-washy, too “I and the earth are one”, too Buddhist, too manmade and way too ‘cool’. I’ve told my wife that I think you should write a book on it because you explain it better than anyone I’ve ever heard—and I’m sure you’d sell a mountain of books—but I’m not quite sold. (I will buy the book if you’ll autograph it though!)

    Here’s my biggest struggle so far. You say that if truth is not lived, then it does not exist. I disagree. Truth is truth. It is what it is, whether I act on it, live by it, or simply give lip service to it or not. I’m not saying that truth without action (faith without works, applied faith) can save, but that it exists because God created it. Because it is, just as God is, whether we know/believe/act/or have no clue whatsoever about it. The sky is blue whether I believe in blue or not, whether I like blue or not, and whether I’ve seen blue or not. It’s a truth that is completely separate from me. When you call this sort of thinking Greco-Roman it makes me want to change my mind because I’ll assume that’s bad, but maybe those Greco-Romans had a perfectly good point while they were blind to another.

    In any case, we might be going in circles now. I don’t imagine I will change your mind, or you mine, and I suppose that I will just go on believing as I do and that you will do the same and in the end we’ll all get to heaven. Oh my gosh! You’ve converted me! That was the most post-modern thing I’ve ever said!!! (Yes, I am an ass, but a jesting one I assure you.)

    Perhaps we should now talk about something far more important than grace, truth, or the kingdom. I have some very interesting thoughts on the 7th bowl of revelation if you’d like to hear them!


  7. Truth matters … a lot!

    I suppose if I had to step back and evaluate my concerns with a faith based on the concept of ‘truth’ … i find some concerns in these things.

    who defines truth?
    why are they defining it that way?
    can truth be defined separate from action?

    I am NOT concerned with a premiere interest in truth. I am concerned with the way that truth is generally understood in our culture.

    can truth exist only as a principle or concept … I do not think so. Truth may only exist in the space of relationship between Man and God, Man and Man, and Man and all the rest of Creation.

    We are products of a worldview that sees truth much as the earliest Greco-Roman philosophers saw it. A concept to be debated and proved, rather than a way to live. It is too convenient to talk about an ideal way of life and an actual way …the Kingdom calls us towards an actual way of life as illustrated through story and parable with living characters who inhabited the world of the disciples of Christ. Jesus did not often tell mythological stories of angels and others that bump in the night … instead he talked of agriculture, neighbors, property .. the everyday building blocks of life.

    Perhaps our own syncretisms, steeped in the mythology of Zeus, Grimms, and Hollywood make us first think of truth as a philosophical construct. Something to attempt in a heroic quest, filled with imagery of apocalyptic ‘left behind’ conclusions. The heroic quest is part of all cultural myth, and is vital and important, but I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus moved into the neighborhood and lived as a Man. The kingdom was present – not only in the distant, heroic future.

    If truth is not lived, then it does not exist.

    Pilate asked the same question, and the Christ responded not with a systematic theology, but with a life lived, died and resurrected.

    It seems that churches and individuals that place a very high importance on the concept of truth as a philosophical ideal, tend to give it a religious significance only. “Truth is important, but as we have described it, it is obviously impossible to reach” So why try … after all that is what grace is for right?

    This seems fundamentally backward to me. We are called to a ‘life’ of faith … not a ‘philosophy’ of faith. Life must firstly be lived. Grace cleans us up as we fail in the process.

    this is not a question of what comes first (this depends exclusively on the circumstances of relationship), it IS a question of what we value as the primary objective. Grace? Truth?

    my answer is neither are the primary objective, The kingdom (the upside-down way of God) is the objective. Grace and truth are the means and ways of the kingdom.

  8. I like what you said about Jesus’ way being “grace before principles”, and I agree completely as long as we get to the truth (principles) sooner or later. You have to be committed to your disclaimer that its not one or the other. I think that most Christians say that, but in practice would rather “err on the side of grace” as we like to say. I think that that is as big an err as on the side of truth. Jesus was “full of grace and truth”, and I believe that this couple must not be separated. Col 1:6 says that the gospel bears fruit and grows when it is understood in both grace and truth. One without the other doesn’t work. I’ll illustrate.

    I know people who love to point out weakness and failures in others but do it in such a way that others feel condemned (truth without grace). I also have friends who would rather wink at my sin than call me to a higher place (grace without truth). I believe these are equally evil. Truth without grace is offensive and judgmental, grace without truth is a warm fuzzy with no power to save.

    Jesus was had a knack for both, and while I agree with you that he was quicker to grace than truth, I am in a hurry to point out that he didn’t wait long to get to the truth. He said to the woman who was caught in adultery, Neither do I condemn you (grace), Go and sin no more (truth). When he met the woman at the well, he first freely offered her living water (grace) and then dealt with her immoral lifestyle (truth). There wasn’t a long wait.

    I have a lot of unsaved friends, and I have limitless amounts of grace for them, that’s easy. It’s like giving candy to kids, not real scary stuff. But sooner or later they need to see the dentist. The good news has a lot of seemingly bad news in it. It is the bad news in the good news (truth) that I, like most, would rather put off till a perpetual ‘one day’. I don’t really want to mention that Christianity is actually a narrow road and that it includes things like dying daily, turning from sin, forgiving people who rip your guts out, praying without ceasing, and giving your life away.

    Also, on the subject of grace and truth, I don’t think that because something is first it is necessarily the higher priority. There is an order to everything, some things are to be first, and other things second, and so on. I have to swing my golf club before I can land my ball on the green, but I assure you that I am far more concerned about where my ball lands than I am about my swing. Of course, if I am careless with my swing I’m never going to land the ball where I want it. My swing is important, but it is not the end, it is the means. Grace is important, but it is not the end, it can’t save the world or set men free. It’s the truth that sets us free.

  9. Where is the the measuring stick? great question …seriously! so what is your answer?

    Who is saying that theology is of no use? not me …but i am saying that to elevate a systematic theology can be idolotry. It may be idolotry to elevate another self-styled prophet. Strangely enough, even the Bible can become a subtle form of idolotry, as the Pharisees proved through adherence to every letter, while living oblivious to the action.

    My concerns are that the measuring stick by which the most recent expression of church here in North America uses – perhaps the last 50 years or so – is much more a twisted version of the gospel rooted more firmly in the American dream of health, wealth, personal autonomy and power – then it ever was in the communal life of a Palestinian peasant. And no, I am not naive enough to believe we can return to that way of life, I realize that our own culture is the place where we must open our eyes to discover the creativity of God as revealed in this place.

    The measuring stick that I want to use is one that relies on Scripture and theology, the Spirit and History, the ‘democracy of the dead’ – Saints who have lived and died long before me.

    Perhaps what I say as fundamental is the measuring stick that Christ used when asked the same type of question … what is the point, how do we measure it all, what is the plumb line? I find his answer comes two-fold:

    1. Jesus had a theology of relationship. Reconciliation of relationship, the hard work to accept people far outside relationship, forgivenss in relationship … the list goes on and on. His actions represented a theology of grace to people before principles (be careful not to read that as an either-or statement).

    and 2. this action and practice was represented in his theological answer. Love God and the second is like unto it, love your neighbour as yourself.

    the question I ask is which came first, theological reflection and then action? Is it possible to have them separated? I do not think so, they follow close on the heels of one another. Some people begin with the thought, others begin with the action – it seems a chicken and egg argument to me. Theology or Actions have no life or value by themselves. An ultimate thought does not exist magically floating somewhere in the ether, it can only exist and have meaning in action. “You called me lord, Lord … but I never knew you” seems to reveal a Socratic way of separation from life through a seeming engagment with higher thoughts … there is no higher thought than one that finds action through participation. That is why the Incarnation had to happen!

    Perhaps much more of this conversation depends on our views on eschatology and the reasons for atoning salvation. But that is another huge topic …

  10. First off, you are going to have to leave out words like orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and syncretism if you want to talk to simple people like me. Don’t make me think so hard Mark!! I think that I agree with most of what you said, at least the parts that made sense to me.

    Here’s where I feel like we’re not quite on the same page. You talk about the Kingdom of God as the highest goal, great. But, as you said, the Kingdom best found in stories about pearls and mustard seed and good Samaritans etc more than systematic theology. I agree. It’s more heart than head. It is the heart of Christ’s teachings. I believe that as the kingdom of God comes alive in each of us we will become far better and far more fruitful versions of ourselves, and probably just what God created us to be.

    But where is the measuring stick in all of this? Where is the plumb line? As soon as you say, “I’m for the Kingdom, but as for theology and all of that—who needs it?” we are now in deep weeds. While some might say, “I’d rather be Godly than be ‘right’”, I’d rather be both. And that doesn’t mean I need to spend my life sitting at home studying systematic theology and being fruitless, but it does mean that I do take my beliefs very seriously. The same guy who wrote, “Live by the spirit…” which would seem more in the spirit of what you seem to be saying, also wrote “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

    I worry about the church getting an attitude that says, “It doesn’t really matter what’s in your head as long as your heart is right”. We can be really nice people with nice hearts, but if we don’t know the directions to get to heaven, we might not find the place, and are certainly very unlikely to show anyone else the way.

    I think that perhaps the postmodern church is a little too concerned about being cool, and these days systematic theology isn’t cool. I don’t know. I just think we need both. If we don’t, it seems to me that we might just spend a lot of time talking about the kingdom and being nice and relevant, and could possibly miss out on what we’re really here for. The world is on fire, and I better know how to use that extinguisher! It’s probably not very cool to say, but I don’t know if I want to be a new kind of Christian.

  11. Hey, I just listened to your podcast. Great stuff. I like it a lot. You’re very easy to listen to and a great illustrator.

    I like what you say about love, how you define it around our passions and participating with our own natural passions. You go on missions, as you say, because you “get to go”… because you “get to participate with God in mission”. You’re doing something you already are passionate about.

    But evangelism isn’t something that everyone is passionate about (most aren’t) but all are called to. How, without compassion, are we motivated to begin. Eventually, everyone who wins a soul discovers how wonderful and exciting evangelism is, and then I suppose discovers that they do have passion for it. But most first timers to witnessing wouldn’t say “I get to witness”. Something has to move them. Hm?

    Of course I don’t believe we ought to stop at compassion, but I think we start there, at least if we don’t already have love.

  12. fantastic thoughts! i will spend a little time fleshing out my thoughts as well. but i am certain i will leave several gaps …

    i think you are definitely right when you suggest we define our terms, as well it is so very easy to be confused by abbreviated language (particularly in email which is spectacularly flat in nature … never reveals tone, or emphasis for one)

    As a start … i believe compassion and love are very synonymous in how we might be defining them.

    secondly, i believe motive does ‘matter’ … a lot! But like theology, motives are often excuses for ‘preparation’ (read inaction that seems noble). Present language has this debate as a fight between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

    but there is a disconnect in our age of enlightenment. This thought that we begin with schooling our minds, and then actions tend to follow. we perfect our theologies with this goal in mind … we discuss the minutiae of Scripture determining the 7th bowl of revelation … making certain that we have a right theology, which then is supposed to lead to right actions through a right heart response … while all around us the world is on fire, and we debate the proper usage of the extinguisher.

    This motive is the same I have heard a thousand times to excuse our inaction … we need to get our own house in order first, before we can help out elsewhere. getting our own house in order geenrally meaning figuring out the right theology and making sure we are partnered with right thinkers … perhaps we need to get our actions in order first. After all when Jesus had compassion he acted, he sent his people out to act on his behalf

    i think that the initial disciples of Christ had a very unclear idea of thier motives, i think they changed and grew only through their actions and engagement. who is to say that we ever reach a full ‘understanding of faith’ through thinking about it. this is actually our own western syncretism, that thought and reason are the ways by which we arrive at an understanding faith. take a few moments of self-reflection, and perhaps you will recognise how often we change our thoughts and minds, often because of our action based practice.

    I bring some people with me to participate in Kingdom work who do not at all or do not easily self-identify as Christian. I believe that if i waited for them to ‘get their hearts right first’ or ‘accept Christ’ I would be denying both of us the opportunity to put into practice the kingdom of God, mutual acts of reconciliation and creation in the places where God is always at work. I go as a mutual learner from all in order to participate in his Shalom … and when I do, for a moment, the kingdom of God is at hand.

    third, i think that the goal is “the kingdom of God” … not evangelism, or churchplanting, or morality, or anything else. Nothing else. all of these other very, very good things are helpful tools, although not immutable or even the focal point (just like Scripture self-identifies even itself as ‘helpful’ for good living).

    The Kingdom of God is the point. Well then … What is the kingdom? It is like this, a man found a pearl of great price …”, “a man was walking on the road to Jericho when he was beset by thieves who robbed him and beat him leaving him for dead …”, “a man had two sons, one came and asked him for his share of the inheritance …” The kingdome is found in stories of grace and acceptance of our enemy far more easily than it is ever found in Strong’s concordance or any systematic theology.

    The kingdom is more narrative than textbook, more filled with characters than principles, more full of action than right motives

    The kingdom is open for those who seek, knock and ask …we are called to live this upside-down way of life, the ridiculous request to live at odds to this world, in ways that make our lives dangerous, impractical, naive and laughable to others …

    to taste the life of the Man Jesus as much as we elevate the principles of the Christ.

    perhaps our highest elevation of right theology as the goal of faith is what i am rebelling against …and knowing you, i am fairly certain that you are definitely espousing a mental faith that works behind our right actions. not as the goal …

    I am sure this is disjointed and random at points … but hopefully you can read what i am trying to say …


  13. Blog away!

    I agree that ‘obedience to God’ is a motive that only takes you so far, and not usually far enough. Besides, it is very cold. “I’m going rescue you from danger, not necessarily because I want to or care that you’re dying, but because God says so.”

    I also agree that our motive can’t be because it is “good for me”. Our motive to help others probably shouldn’t include the word ‘me’.

    I understand what you say about whole body not being a hand or an eye, but I think that the “body” illustration breaks down in certain ways around the topic of the great commission, since, while we may all do it a little differently due to the type of body part we happen to be, God hasn’t excluded anyone from the great commission. We all have been given the ministry of reconciliation. I think we’re too quick to say, “I don’t have the gift of evangelism” so I’ll leave my neighbors and coworkers to someone who does. It’s a copout that works for everyone who wants to use it because no one has or ever will have the gift of evangelism. It doesn’t exist. Evangelism isn’t a gift to us, it’s our ministry. We use our gifts to fulfill it. Your neighbors (in the broad sense of the word) are your responsibility.

    I can’t agree with you much on your apparent lack of concern for motives either. I think God is far more concerned about why we do than what we do. Is it not our hearts that matter most to Him? If you reach the lost because you want an extra jewel on my crown, or admiration from believers, or to feel like a hero, or so that you can write a book on evangelism and sell a million copies… is that just fine? I’m happy if “all these things are added unto thee” but they shouldn’t replace a Christlike motive. And wouldn’t those tainted motives leak a little and leave the very ones you’re reaching out to with a bad taste in their mouths, just as you had in the Safeway when you discovered that the nice guy had selfish motives for his niceness?

    I would say that a good deed can only ever be as good as its motive.

    You mentioned that we should be motivated by love, but not compassion because compassion is a feeling, and feelings dull. Of course we now are coming down to definitions and everyone interprets these words—for that is all they are—differently. I may think you’re wrong (I do) but if I understood how you interpreted these words I might find you to be perfectly right. This is probably the case. My normal interpretation of love would categorize it as more of a feeling than compassion, which is at least half an action word. Scripture says repeatedly that so-and-so was “moved” with compassion and “did” such-and-such. (While there are many more, five examples are Matthew 14:14, Luke 10:33, Luke 15:20, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13.) When Jesus “looked at him and loved him” (rich young ruler) Jesus didn’t “do” anything for him. Every time that scripture records that Jesus had compassion it is followed by an action, a miracle, He would always do something because of the compassion that motivated Him.

    It is because compassion is listed so incredibly often as Christ’s reason for reaching out to lost people that I have personally concluded that it is the best motive to do so. I would presume that the Christlike motive would be the best one. I may be wrong on this one–and I often am–but it is where I’m at today.

    And, the nice thing about compassion is that it isn’t all that hard to find, or grow in. You just have to “look at” (physically or spiritually) desperate situations and compassion appears. Like watching a world vision commercial. If you look away or change the channel you can avoid compassion, but if you really look at it, compassion appears in your heart every single time. Compassion is triggered by sight. A great majority of the scriptures that include the word compassion (all five of my earlier examples) also include the word “saw”. So-and-so “saw” the person/crowd, had compassion, and did something about it. So, while I would agree with you that compassion can fade, I also believe that it is very easy to top up on at a moments notice.

    Any thoughts? And don’t feel obligated to disagree nicely. I want you to be yourself Mark!! I’m enjoying this conversation and it is helping me flush out my beliefs.

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