I have been re-reading Lauren Winner’s great book, “Mudhouse Sabbath”. It is about rediscovering Jewish spiritual practices in the context of her Christian life. Lauren grew up in an observant Jewish family, converted to evangelical Christianty and then found a church home within the Episcopal Church. I love her writing and her journey!
Here is one of the key ideas that really struck me from the introduction of her book:
“na’aseh v’nishma” — “We will do and we hear/understand.” (Exodus 24)
Note that the doing comes before the understanding.
Growing up in a Jewish family (including 2 years at an orthodox Jewish day school), I have always had an appreciation for this concept, but it was helpful for Lauren Winner to give words to the idea. (Or more specifically, the Torah to do it, lol).
I think this is part of the secret as to why obedience is such a powerful thing — as Nancy talked about in a her recent sermon about ways to know Jesus. Sometimes we DO even when we don’t understand… but in DOING, we come to understand.
In a similiar way, I think there is a powerful dynamic between DOING and BEING.
Some Christians are really good at BEING and that is their emphasis in their spirituality. Simply be in the presence of God. Don’t worry about doing, just pray/worship/enjoy God. Accept that you are accepted. Know that you are loved. Be transformed simply by the presence of Jesus in our lives. A common phrase among these folks is “we are supposed to be human beings, not human doings.”
These are the “BEING” Christians, and they are 100% right.
Other Christians are really good at DOING and that is their emphasis in their spirituality. They are always doing, being active in their faith and ministry. Serving the poor, sharing the good news, helping a friend move, giving to charity, etc etc. These folks believe that as followers of Jesus, we are to DO the things He did and asked us to do. A common phrase… “WWJD?”
These are the “DOING” Christians, and they are 100% right.
That is the tension. Both are right.
Here is what I am learning… and I think na’aseh v’nishma helps us grasp this, as do many of the rythyms of Jewish life that Lauren talks about… that BEING always leads to DOING and DOING should lead to BEING.
In other words… when we are authentically in the presence of Jesus (“being”), we will be compelled to service (as our master was)… and that when we DO, we will become more like Jesus in our character and being.