To be is to do—Aristotle
To do is to be—J. P. Sartre
Do be do be do—F. Sinatra
What is to be done?—Lenin
Do It!—J. Rubin
O.K.! O.K.!—T. Mann.
Being is the natural state of just about all things. My cat just “is.” She seems to have no plans for the day or the hour. Yes, I have read the internet memes that claim that the cat’s calm, sedate, catatonic demeanor is an indication that she is merely plotting my demise in her head but her actions through the 8 years of her presence with me suggests she is either incapable or incompetent to pull off the revolution against the regime and install herself as master of the house.
Instead Cat has an attitude of the moment. She sleeps when there is nothing to do. When the door is opened she goes out. Or she doesn’t. When the sound of the can being opened comes to her ear, she stirs — if she is hungry. When she hears quiet rustling in the corner, she investigates. When something close to her scurries or runs, she gives chase. If she catches it and it is small rodent type varmint she will kill it. When the rain comes she seeks shelter. When the sun shines she seeks out a spot to soak it up.
In other words, Cat just is. She is, to use Forde and Nestingen’s book title: free to be. The moment dictates and suggests what she will do and unseen forces and thoughts and impulses, internal and external determine what she will do.
In a place that farms this is not a strange thing. Planting and harvest cannot happen by the force of will. Winter is a bad time to plant. But when the spring thaws out the manure pile the farmer will smell it and spread it on the fields and when the precious dry days of April and May arrive he will sow. In spite of chemical manure piles in the shape of Nitrogen tanks sowing is a response to spring.
In a place of agriculture and the type of patronage of the 1st century, says John Pilch, most people’s lives are even further response or reaction based. In a social web of family allegiance and patronage, ones day was sometimes determined by what ones patriarch or benefactor wanted to see happen that moment. Patron needs someone to start a riot in front of the praetorium — it is off to the riot. “What are we shouting?” “Crucify Him? Got it. Too bad for the guy they’re going to crucify. I kind of liked him. Oh, well.“
Designs external determine much of what is done by any of us, if we are really honest about that. If most of us are honest about it, the fact is that at about noon on Monday our week has pretty much already gotten away from us, if that late.
Is that really option though for those who, in the words of Jesus, are in but not of the world?
Therefore, of works that are truly good and well-pleasing to God, which God will reward in this world and in the world to come, faith must be the mother and source; and on this account they are called by St. Paul true fruits of faith, as also of the Spirit.
And first, as regards the necessity or voluntariness of good works, it is manifest that in the Augsburg Confession and its Apology these expressions are often used and repeated that good works are necessary. Likewise, that it is necessary to do good works, which also are necessarily to follow faith and reconciliation. Likewise, that we necessarily are to do and must do such good works as God has commanded. Thus also in the Holy Scriptures themselves the words necessity, needful, and necessary, likewise, ought and must, are used concerning what we are bound to do because of God's ordinance, command, and will, as Rom. 13:5; 1 Cor. 9:9; Acts 5:29; John 15:12; 1 John 4:21. (Solid Declaration; Good Works, 9 and 14)
It has not escaped anyone that Jesus is giving commands to his disciples. The content of that command is simple: Love as Christ loves though it has a certain internal character to it. (love one another) Giving that shape is a difficult process and is often a perilous journey. What shape is the love to take? And, if the disciples live in Love, why would the world hate them? (15:18) Yet, Faith, brought by the Word of God (15:3), is to know the what and how.
More than that, Jesus now calls the disciples friends. A state of equality has been declared. A counselor, the Holy Spirit, has been promised. (14:25) That counselor will be a voice of remembrance of all the things Jesus taught and did and they are to become like the one they once called master but he will not be their “master” in the traditional sense. The Spirit will be the voice of the common sense of Faith.
Faith is not directed by the world around us. Faith is directed at the world around us. Faith is not a matter of ”just be” in the world and be confident. Faith, according to Jesus, has an agenda. Love of neighbor was Luther’s answer to the question: “And what is that agenda.” But the command to love comes with the qualifier: “As I have loved you.” (15:12) And not only that But: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (15:13)
Cat has just come in from the rain through the front door. She went straight to the back door and began to meow. Cats, animal behaviorists tell us, do not know that different doors lead to the same reality on the other side. They truly think that going out the other door will lead them to their familiar backyard but without the rain. They live in moments. Are people different?
Disciples are to be different. Disciples live a careful balance between being and doing. But their “being” is in Christ and their “doing” comes from the depths of them where the Holy Spirit whispers in a still small voice.
The word is that the world around us has become more and more hostile, secular, pagan, and gnostic and that we, the church, are heading for minority status. In that world, I would imagine, the church has to be and act deliberately and resolutely to give witness to Jesus. Shame on her if she has waited until now to be and do thus. It was always our calling to lead our lives very careful according to the council of the Holy Spirit that Jesus asked the Father to send and invade us. He has made us clean by his word and sacrifice.
We are free to do. Do it! Ok! Ok!