A colleague had arrived barely a minute late and she was apologising for it. Her co-worker responded graciously and it sparked a conversation, during which this young woman shared that her dad viewed turning up to work early to be absolutely imperative. She said he'd been known to sack tradies working for him if they turned up late.
That night I came back to the conversation and started mulling it over. It occurred to me that anyone can arrive early to work, but still have lousy attitude all day. Likewise, it is possible for one who is normally conscientious at their work to be late in arriving.
So an action, in and of itself, is of limited benefit in conveying the heart attitude of the person involved.
This is the problem with legalism. It demands an outward conformity to a set of rules but cannot move the heart of those involved. So it reduces the us to the performance of approved actions but leaves our attitude untouched. As long as we are seen to be acting a certain way, our motivation for doing so is rarely questioned.
The danger in this is we can be left with a facade which has nothing behind it - no substance.
As long as we look good, it is presumed we are good.
And this got me wondering how much this plays into the realities we have been seeing in the institutional church. There have been many leaders in recent times whose behaviour has been revealed as abusive or corrupt and yet they seem incapable of admitting it - of really owning their own crap. (And Mark Driscoll is just the latest, christian-celebrity example of this.)
It also appears that those watching on, applauding the outward appearance, don't want to see the emptiness behind the facade. As long as the leader looks good, mouths the correct words, they don't seem to care that there may be nothing of substance behind the looks, no meaningful reality to those words. As longs as it looks good!
I wonder how much of this imperative to maintain the facade is built on the presumption that looking good equates to being good?
Conversely, how many leaders have done real good (and won genuine respect) by admitting their faults and addressing their sin?
You see, a good appearance can be deceptive - it's what's in the heart that is important.