Ethics & Christian living

Doing is a tricky thing – by Alan Carson

St Francis may have said

“You do not know, what you have not practiced”

I say may because I can only find it referenced in the writings of Dorothy Day but if it’s only her quote that’s still good enough for me.

By the standards of St Francis, or at the very least Ms Day, it seems I may know a lot less than I think I do.

10 years ago I was full of ideas, full of theories and dreams and hopes for my city, Belfast. I still am, but looking back I see how little I actually knew.

Grand plans

I like to talk, I like to wrestle with ideas and develop grand plans. I like to stare at the impossible and dream of what lies on the other side but doing is a tricky thing.

It’s easier to resolve a problem in my head and consider it sorted than it is to practice and find my solution wanting. It’s easier to consider myself an untested expert than throw my lot in with the struggling triers.

A decade ago I knew nothing of the poverty of Belfast, or indeed any other place (including my own heart).

But I am so thankful for a church and for wise leaders who refused to simply talk, who wouldn’t settle for mere theories, who refused to let the broken and hurting and disregarded parts of our city go untouched. Who insisted upon doing something.

Unseen places

And so we did. We stepped out knowing how little we knew to try something, anything really. To allow ourselves to get close enough to the unseen places and the overlooked lives of our city for our hearts to get hooked. Close enough that ‘not knowing’ was no longer an option.

The Church has often failed to know the things that it has spoken so much about or maybe just forgotten what it so faithfully used to know. At times she has resolutely held the line when all others faltered and at times she has turned her back on those she’s called to serve.

Broken & beautiful

The Church I know, is both broken and beautiful, she is in parts redundant and in parts resplendent. But I love the Church. I am the Church; the flesh and blood, stumbling and failing, pressing forward, hands and feet of God. I am the Church; her faults and failings are mine, her call to live in such a way as to make all things new is mine as well.

Doing is a tricky thing. Its easier to think and consider and discuss some more (not bad things by any measure).

But we stand on the shoulders of generations of saints named and unknown who took Jesus at his word when he said of the good Samaritan “go and do likewise”. We stand on the shoulders of a Church universal which has rolled up its sleeves, dug into its pockets and laid down its life time and again to put in to action the truths we hold so dear. We follow after those who have refused to settle for a hollow and incomplete knowing.

Knowing my city

We’ve done some practicing these last few years, we may know a little more than when we started but doing remains a tricky thing. It opens me up to failure and rejection, to disappointment and to the weight of success. But I want to know my city and those who call it home. I want to know God’s heart for me and for the faces that pass me every day.

And that’s going to continue to require some going, some doing and some tricky things.

We do not know what we have not practiced.

Alan Carson is passionate about Belfast and seeing those who live here flourish. He helps pastor Belfast City Vineyard and oversees a charity called Storehouse. Check out his blog at Levelground where this was originally published.

2 thoughts on “Doing is a tricky thing – by Alan Carson”

    1. Amen Guy – I am with you. Our theology must be put into practice. Our beliefs only become faith when we put them into action. ‘Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves!’


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