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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

November, 2010

In a recent interview, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked if he prayed before making decisions, such as his country’s involvement in the war in Iraq. He gave a fairly long response that boiled down to “No.” At one point, though, he made the statement “Religious belief cannot tell us what is right.” Excuse me? I thought that was what “religious belief” was for—to tell us what is right and guide our actions. Beliefs that don’t make a difference are pointless. Blair has been described in The Observer as “. . . a committed Christian who keeps the Bible by his bed.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/aug/03/religion.tonyblair) and I don’t want to judge the man but I just don’t get it.

I mean, what’s the point of believing this stuff if it doesn’t make a difference in how you live? Take for example scriptures like “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8 ESV). Practice justice. Love kindness. Act humbly. Pretty simple things. Right things. Doing these things is “what is right.” Putting them into practice might not necessarily be simple or easy but they’re “what is right.”

How about this one? “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:37b-39 ESV). Love God. Love your neighbor and treat him or her with the same respect you would like to receive. Again, pretty simple. Right. And again, not necessarily easy in practice but “what is right.”

Jesus said, “‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’” (Matt. 7:24-27 ESV). Notice that he doesn’t say “Everyone who then hears these words of mine and believes them . . .” but “‘Everyone who . . . does them . . .’”

The Observer’s Kamal Ahmed wrote that Tony Blair “. . . keeps the Bible by his bed.” So do I. So do a lot of Christians. But some of them actually read it. Some of them actually follow what it says. Beyond reading the Bible, there is the matter of doing what it says. James wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (Jas. 1:22 ESV). In the film Without A Clue, Michael Caine plays a bumbling version of Sherlock Holmes. At one point, he says that he keeps a Bible in his bedroom. Later we learn that he uses the Bible to prop up a broken leg on his bed. The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psa. 119:8 ESV). If we allow ourselves to be guided by God’s word, we will know “what is right.” This is not to say we won’t face hard choices or have to wrestle with our conscience sometimes. But we will make better decisions if we are open to God’s leading and have a foundation of genuine faith.

We don’t have to be Prime Minister or President. Each of us is a leader. Each of us is leading somebody somewhere. It may be our children, friends, coworkers, neighbors, or complete strangers. But we can’t lead effectively unless we are being led in the right way. Who is leading us and where are we leading? If God is leading us, if we have that kind of relationship with God, we will know what is right.


“Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. / He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. / All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. / For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. / Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.” (Psa. 25:8-12 ESV.)
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Copyright © 2010 by David Phelps