Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Character over Behavior

“So let me tell you a story about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor who was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years by the communists – a truly seasoned saint.
On the evening of Easter Sunday in 1988 Pastor Wurmbrand was speaking to our newly planted church when it was meeting in our home. He finished what he wanted to say to us and opened the floor for questions. My wife Beverly was first to speak and asked him what we could do as a new church to grow, be healthy, and advance the kingdom. His response took us off guard – he said, “I do not have the answer to that question. Who has the next question?” He then took a question from a young man, a political activist, who wanted to know what we could do in America to prevent the same kind of persecution the church endured in Romania. In response, Pastor Wurmbrand said, “I cannot answer this question either. And now I want to tell you why. I cannot answer your questions because they are the wrong questions. To ask, ‘What must I do...?’ is like asking ‘What is the melody of a prune?’  A prune has no melody. As Christians we cannot ask ‘What must I do...?’ We must ask ‘What must I be...?’ ” 
His point was that fruitful Christianity comes from the inside out – from who we are – not from what we do. It is the inside that must first be changed, and then the heart will give birth to healthy, genuine expressions. For example, a shortsighted question asks, “What can I do to showlove to my liberal, feminist sister?”  Would it not be better to actually love her? The first approach is concerned with outside appearances – the second is based on what is actually in the heart, and will have far greater impact. At issue is not the appearance of love, but actually having it. With our children, when we preoccupy ourselves with what to do -- with following all the right steps and enforcing all the standards given us by homeschool veterans – we will merely be controlling the outside. It is as though we have nothing genuine to pass on at a heart level, so we do what we can from the outside in.
For many years I presented a convention workshop entitled “Creating a Strong Family Identity.” It was popular as a keynote address and generated great response from audiences. It contained various steps that parents could follow to strengthen family bonds. It was a good session, but it did not go deep enough. I created that session from observing families with strong family identities, but I eventually came to realize that their bonds did not entirely result from the steps I had documented. Their strong family connections were actually forged by theirlove for each other – not from the path they were on. The steps merely added to the bond created by the love. Many of those who listened to my suggested steps went home and implemented them, and I have heard back from many who were pleased with the results. However, significant family bonds are created by not by external controls and steps along a path, but are a fruit of love in a home. Our goal should chiefly be the cultivation of Christ’s love – first in our own hearts (Eph 3:17-19) and then in our families.
I once read an article written by a veteran homeschooler on how to raise children with a kingdom-minded worldview. The author had seen her own children grow up to be active in outreach, so offered the reader the many steps she and her husband had developed to cultivate a vision for outreach in their children. I appreciated the value of the suggestions offered in the article – they were truly inspiring. However, I am convinced that their own children grew up with a vision for outreach – not because they as parents did all the steps, but because they as Christians genuinely owned the vision and it was contagious to their children. It was not what they did – it was who they were. The steps she offered in her article she did not learn at a conference and then impose upon her children. They were simply expressions of what was already in the hearts of she and her husband. After reading the article I pictured multitudes of homeschool moms implementing all the steps in the process, thinking that that is what it would take to raise kingdom-minded children. I fear that many of those moms, even if they can implement all those steps in their homes, will be in for a rude awakening when their children reach their older teen years. Our children spiritually blossom, not from the controls we impose from the outside, but from what they catch from us on the inside."
 -Reb Bradley, in an excerpt from his article about homeschooling.
Some of my other reading today:
Crazy Enough to Homeschool?
Shelter is not a place