Defined By What We Do

I was reading a Mark Steyn article today and he reminded me of a wonderful line in Batman Begins. It is spoken by Bruce Wayne’s longtime girl friend (as distinct from girlfriend). Rachel Dawes sees Bruce leaving a particularly degenerate dip in a hotel fountain (in order to take pressure off any investigation of his “off” time and leading people to Batman). He immediately tells Rachel that underneath this bimbo facade he still cares about all the important things. She replies with a cutting comeback.

It’s what you do that defines you.

If that should not be the motto of all Christians, I do not know what should be. The apostle James pretty much agreed, though he couched it in slightly different terms.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? James 2:14-21

Or to put it simply, “You are what you do” or maybe better “What you do tells me who you are.” Jesus told his disciples to look at the fruit of those who claimed to be Christians (using what a tree actually did as an example) and when he came across a tree that was supposed to be luscious with fruit and it wasn’t, he cursed it into a withered stump. Since we cannot look into the heart of those we know, we depend on their actions to give substance to their words and reveal their character. What James was getting at was a slight variation of Yoda’s famous words, “Don’t try, do”, which in the apostolic version comes out “Don’t say, do!”

There is a great comeback in the movie by Batman. As he is diving off of a building to get the bad guys he whispers in Rachel’s ear, “It’s what you do that defines you.” Suddenly she understands. So should we. Christian, please remember, it is what you do that defines you, so don’t say, do!

Update 7/3/2005: Politickal Animal at the Politickal blog comments on this posting. In his closing statement he says

What about the idea, Rachel, that God defines us by grace? Not for what we do, but for who we are and how God sees us in Christ. Sorry, Batman. I, for one, would hate to be defined by my actions alone.

In an effort to be pithy and brief I did not include the caviat that God sees our heart and examines our faith, so we are not solely defined by what we do when we consider the eternal point of view. However, when we consider the temporal, the world around us and the people within it (including the Church and our fellow Christians), what we do IS what defines us. It is our fruit, and what Jesus said we should be judged by.

So, yes dear Rachel, I want you to know that God sees us as redemed by our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. But following on from that he also expects us to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” doing “the good works he has prepared for us to walk in” so that we “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work” since we “died to the law through the body of Christ, that [we] might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”

Therefore dear Rachel, if you ever see what I do conflicting with who I have said I am, call me task and again remind me, “You are what you do dear Bruce and God told me to tell you so.”

😉 We all need to be reminded when maybe we haven’t been as clear as we thought we had been.

Also, I would like to welcome those who are visiting from the link on the Think Christian blog. Thank you for visiting. Stay a while and let me know what you think.

Update: You might also be interested in my other thoughts on Batman Begins. Check out my postings Batman Begins, Additional Thoughts and Archetypical Heroes

1 thought on “Defined By What We Do

  1. I commend the author of this point. We are what we do. It’s time we stop hiding behind the grace that God so graciously gives us and start ACTing like the christians we are called to be. He did not send us his son without any expectation of action or works on our part. God does give us grace because we need it, not because we deserve it.

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