We all have an image of ourselves in our heads. We also know that there are people in the world who do not see us the way we see ourselves; they have seen or heard or otherwise experienced something that has them thinking we’re not as good as we seek to be.
And they are right. From their limited perspective, you were not. I know I am not my best self at all times, so I am not saying this to be mean, but you, we, have messed up at some point in some way that has shaped the way someone thinks of you–in a negative way. You might get the chance to fix that, and you might not. That’s more their choice than yours. All you can do is try not to make the same mistakes again.
And that is the message I really want to share this morning: You have to work at being the person you want to be seen as. It takes effort and practice. You cannot just declare yourself to be a champion of right or reason if you aren’t doing something to champion those concepts. You don’t get to call yourself an ally to any group until the members of the group first acknowledge your efforts; and you don’t get to keep calling yourself an ally if you don’t keep working for their liberty and rights. You do not get to be Good unless you are doing Good in the world.
That is one thing I love about covenantal religion–your membership is based on your actions, not your words. There is no recitation that makes you a member of the community. If you want to join, you have to take steps and then you have to fulfill promises to maintain it. How you are as a member of the community matters, and while we are committed to helping you be the best you can be, we can also hold you accountable when you fall short.
I wish the world were more covenantal, more relational. I wish more people understood that your actions, your words, and your behavior are what we have to judge you by; we cannot read your thoughts. You have to act out your best thoughts if you want the world to know them. And if you do it consistently, the people who are paying attention will see the pattern and the person you are working to be.