Note: I apologize for some text editing issues below. No matter what I do it will not be fixed. Mind of its own it seems; hope it is not too distracting.
I was fascinated, if a little disturbed, by former basketball star Dennis Rodman’s recent “diplomatic” trip to North Korea. The idea seemed to be to use the common ground of basketball for softening the ever increasing hostility between North Korea and America. In principle I have nothing against a basketball game between political enemies, but what was shocking was some of Rodman’s conclusions about North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un.
Rodman has since called Kim a “good leader” and a “good man.” He also referred
to him as his friend. Though Kim Jong-un inherits the oppressive regime from his father only recently, he has done nothing to change the circumstances. He continues to oversee prison camps incarcerating hundreds of thousands, who are suffering the toll of forced labor. A great many of these people are imprisoned because they love Jesus. Kim has recently tested his nuclear missiles and promised to end the cease-fire between the U.S. and ally South Korea and North Korea.
When Rodman returned to the states, not surprisingly, he was called to account for his comments. He did not back down. When confronted by North Korea’s atrocious human rights record, he tried to explain, “He’s a good guy to me. As a person to person, he’s my friend. I don’t condone what he does” (from ESPN). When pushed further in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, he downplayed the atrocities of Kim as “politics.”
What fascinates me about Rodman’s comments is the embrace of this dichotomy between Kim Jong-un the person and Kim’s behavior. He can murder and oppress thousands of people, but he’s a “good person to me.” Though Kim is an extreme example, I do think Rodman’s dichotomy is actually quite pervasive in our culture today. We explain away behavior and affirm the goodness of nearly everyone. This is certainly true with self-evaluation. Almost no one ever thinks they are a bad person!
A professor told me once a story about a young woman who had cheated on some assignment. When confronted by the professor, she confessed, but then quickly explained, “That’s not who I am.” The professor wouldn’t let her off the hook and told her, “No, that’s exactly who you are. If you want to do something about it, then you need to repent.”
We cannot separate our being from our actions. What Jesus taught us on the Sermon on the Mount is that our internal motivation/heart leads to our external actions. Listen to his words in Luke 6:45: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” There is no escaping the testimony of your actions. They reveal exactly who you are.
I remember when my son Josiah was only seven he prayed one night for God’s help to “be the good, do the good, and share the good.” Josiah understands the consistency required in the goodness of our heart and the goodness of our actions. If we allow God to reform our hearts, then reformed actions will follow.