I’m probably the one staring at you while you sip on bottled water, the one asking with raised eyebrows about the recycling and wondering where your Fair trade coffee is.
We all know those people—those activist friends who tell you there are children working for 10p a day in horrendous conditions just to make your clothes, and how that chocolate bar you’re about to eat is death to a hundred thousand farmers.
We’re well intentioned, I promise, we’re just trying to make the world a better place.
But we don’t always serve you well in the process. I don’t always serve you well. Because sometimes, lurking away behind my good intention…is judgement.
A friend was talking about grace the other day, about how we want to be people who live from a place of desire—transformed hearts and minds that love the things God loves—rather than from a place of obligation. It’s a way of life backed up by discipline for sure, leading with your head until your heart catches up when we don’t simply feel like it, but it’s trying to move far away from the mind-set we’ve grown up with where should’s and aught-to’s are hanging all over us.
I was on board with it for a bit, while we were talking about church activities and general life stuff, but then I started thinking about social justice and our responsibility to our local and global neighbours and my language quickly changed.
Many should’s and aught-to’s followed.
And so we went back and forth.
But I couldn’t shake it. I wanted to keep arguing that this was the one area of life where people should act in a certain way whether they desired to or not, and it was totally fine to tell them so.
I knew deep down that I was in “control” territory, but my belief in treating people fairly was wining over my acceptance of the ridiculous nature of grace.
I came unstuck.
My favourite phrase, “Love God and do what you want” was really “Love God and do what I want”
I was justifying it because it was about encouraging people to do something that was honourable and selfless, but I’d missed the point. Again.
And so I journeyed back into why I do what I do (yes GVT, I hear you laughing) and I realised that it was never because I felt I should. That’s often the language I use because I feel the conviction so deeply, but it definitely, definitely stems from desire; from a changed heart and the legacy of revelation and inspiration.
I’ve learnt a lot of stuff about global poverty over the last 10 years. I’ve travelled around, met people, made friends, engaged in debates, studied scripture, read books, watched movies, taken action. My eyes have become wide open to certain realities because of what I’ve been exposed to. And I feel really blessed by that.
As a result I’ve been ridiculously inspired and challenged to do something about it; inspired by friends who are living their lives differently, who have sacrificed much for the sake of others, whose passion and vision for a restored world drives their ambition and creativity; by churches bringing hope to their communities, restoring dignity and becoming a family to the lonely; and by a God who set a plan in motion to restore all that was lost and broken in the world, including me.
But I was never guilted into anything.
Obligation didn’t rock my world and turn it upside down.
A broken heart did.
A short trip to South Africa when I was 17 years old changed everything. Falling in love with a new-born baby who’d just been rescued off the streets blew a huge hole in my small bubble of a world. It grabbed my heart, changed my perspective, challenged my faith. God used it to rock my entire universe. And nothing was the same after that.
Connection will do that to you. Guilt wont.
So perhaps my role in all of this isn’t to try and guilt you into action (shocking eh?), it isn’t to stare you down and nag you until you’ve made the changes I’ve decided to make in my own life (which, just to be clear, is far from perfect on this).
Perhaps its not the should’s and aught-to’s you need to hear from me, or the unintended tone of subtle judgement.
We’re all bored of charity adverts on TV and those pictures of pot-bellied African children with flies on their faces. We’re immune to them. We probably shouldn’t be, but we are. For decades charities have been guilt-tripping the world into “caring”, heaping on the moral-obligation rather than stirring desire within us.
And it doesn’t do much. Not in the long-run anyway.
Because guilt won’t transform us and the way we choose live.
So maybe it’s time to change the narrative.
Maybe my role is to engage and inspire you; to introduce you to the people I’ve come to love, to connect with your heart and share the things that I’m wrestling with, to tell you stories of both great hope and raw need – because there is always both, to give you the space and freedom to respond in your own way, and to do my best to live out the values myself.
I believe in the power of great stories. I believe they can inspire greatness in us, shed light on new realities and cause us to connect more deeply with people, not just issues. So let’s share them.
This isn’t about not wanting to make a noise about the things that matter. I have incredible friends who passionately charge others to live better lives, and I want to honour that, because they do it so well.
It’s not about turning down the volume, ducking out of difficult conversations, ignoring the problem, or shying away from responsibility and the need to speak the truth in love.
It’s about me trying to get my head around the ridiculous nature of grace.
It’s about wanting hearts to be transformed rather than behaviour simply modified.
And it’s about loving you better.