While I have yet to hear of any sincere apologies on Colbert’s behalf, I want to use this example as an instance in which intentions and actions
don’t match up and instead result in more damage. We’ve all experienced this. We’re human and we all make mistakes, no matter how pure
or how right we want our hearts to be. This is especially prevalent in many Christian communities, in which many well-meaning and devoted
Christians embark on missions to do good, help people, and spread the Good News. Whether they are brief, unsustainable mission trips around
the world, or offending a close friend in an attempt to explain our beliefs, it’s no wonder that we ourselves as Christians are the number one
cause of turning people away from religion. We often mean well, but our words don’t always line up with our actions, just as our behaviors don’t
always live up to our beliefs. We contradict ourselves and sometimes, even send out the wrong message despite our eagerness to do God’s
work. If a mother is constantly comparing her child to other children, putting down or shaming by pointing out ways in which her own child is
falling short, her words and actions may ultimately damage her child’s self-esteem, self-worth, and perhaps even mental health. This doesn’t
necessarily mean that this mother is a horrible parent, because she has good intentions and wants her child to live up to his or her potential;
however, the damage caused by her actions outweighs the intent, no matter how much she loves her child. And yet, this is a part of human
nature–to always want better, to want what we can’t have, and to hurt others while under the impression of acting on love.
However, we as believers and followers of Christ have hope. This hope is founded on the fact that even though our intentions and our actions
here on earth may not be perfect, we have been offered grace, understanding, and love to make up for all the times we’ve failed to carry out
God’s will and for all the times we’ve hurt others and ourselves. And this can be dangerous sometimes, because with the knowledge that God
understands and sees our hearts, we can easily fall into a trap of thinking that our actions don’t matter as long as our intentions are sound.
However, I’d like to suggest that the idea of focusing on intent is simply a disguised notion in which we only focus on ourselves and not the
impact or influence we have on others. We must focus on our actions just as much as our intentions, for in focusing outward, we take the
attention off of ourselves, and only then can we be open to truly reflect God’s goodness to others. In Philippians 2:4, Paul says, “Let each of you
look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I’m not discounting good intentions. I’m arguing that good intentions alone
are not enough. Instead, we must practice how to act both out of love and in love, because claiming actions based on love is not enough. Just
because Colbert claims not to be racist, it doesn’t mean his words and actions aren’t, and simply because a parent does everything for their child
on the basis of love, it doesn’t mean that every action demonstrates love. Our actions, as well as our intentions, must reflect love. And while we
will probably make mistakes along the way, it is still our responsibility to make amends for our mistakes and apologize sincerely when we realize
our faults. Only after we learn this can we better represent Christ and His unconditional love for us in a way that engages and encourages others.
We should all strive to shine God’s light out to our campus, to our churches, to our communities, and to this world.