Who I Am, What I Do

Judges 13:12, “Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?'”

Character and conduct. Or in other words… who I am and what I do. Tragically, we are rapidly becoming a world where the those two traits are no longer connected in the minds of many people. For centuries many have held the view that character and conduct were inseparable. “I am what I do… My actions are ultimately a reflection of the real me… My choices and decisions reveal my true priorities… Words without supporting actions mean nothing… Talking the talk has no value unless you also walk the walk.” Unfortunately, the current culture has little regard for such a philosophy of life. We desperately want to divorce conduct from character. We are trying to convince ourselves that intentions are greater than actions. Honestly? We could not be more wrong. Character and conduct are inseparable. My choices matter. My actions matter. They matter to God. They should matter to me.

Take a closer look at Manoah’s question to the angel of the Lord. In essence he is actually asking two questions. The first question concerns the boy’s mode of life. The second question focuses in on his vocation. Want some simple definitions? Okay. Mode of life can best be understood as “fashion, kind, or plan.” It’s an issue of character. Vocation means exactly what you think it means. The word is defined as “deeds, work.” It’s an issue of conduct. Mode of life? Who will Samson be. Vocation? What will Samson do.

But here’s the interesting thing. In Manoah’s mind the two concerns are just one question. As a father he wanted the best for his son, he was concerned about both the boy’s character and his conduct. The angel had already announced that Samson would walk through life as a judge. His vocation would be the deliverance of God’s people from Philistine rule and tyranny. That is what Samson would do. But God had also spoken about the boy’s mode of life. Samson was to be a Nazarite to God from the womb. His life was entirely and wholly set apart unto to God. His life would be defined by a very special lifestyle that evidenced his inner commitment. That is who Samson would be. For both God and Manoah the two were connected. Samson was a Nazarite. Samson would deliver the people of God. His mode of life and his vocation were inseparable.

And therein lies the great error in Samson’s life. As we will discover in the next few weeks, Samson’s life was defined by his inability to grasp that central truth about the inseparable nature of character and conduct. Samson did some great things for God. But I find it very hard to say he was a great man of God. Yes, there were isolated incidents of tremendous achievement. But there are also many stories of unbelievable moral compromise on his part. At times his actions were admirable. But at other times they were deplorable. Manoah understood from the very beginning that “who I am” and “what I do” are both equally important. As a parent his primary concern was that he would raise his son in an atmosphere that would cultivate both godly character and corresponding actions. For whatever reason, Samson never learned those vital lessons. And as a result, we look back at his life as a tale of tragedy rather than a testimony of triumph. His almost unimaginable actions could not overcome his unbelievable character flaws.

I want to challenge each of us to take a long, hard look in the mirror today. Are my character and conduct congruent? Are they equal? Or is there a disparity between what I profess and what I practice? Am I confessing one truth but instead living a lie? No, none of us are or ever will be perfect. Fortunately, the grace of God and the blood of Christ has made provision for all my sin. But that mercy such never be misconstrued as a license for godless or careless living. Both my character and my conduct matter greatly to God. My character should reflect the true nature of Christ. My conduct should demonstrate the inner change that He has accomplished in me. Samson’s life could easily be defined as a failure. He never understood that who he was could not be compartmentalized from his actions. In the eyes of God both were equally important. Character counts. And so does conduct. Who I am and what I do are inseparable.