disclaimer: sorry for the somber mood of this post. I think I've been reading too much Ecclesiastes recently.
Different people can see the same sin,the same injustice, the same oppression, and react oppositely. The activist, when he sees injustice, is thrust into the world, seeking to extract the sin from society. The saint, seeing the same injustice, is thrust into himself, seeking to extract the sin from his own heart. One is with the people. He works tirelessly in the heat of the sun to bring about restitution. The other is with no one but God, and toils in the heat of brutal examination. The activist is perpetually frustrated. When one hole is patched, another one just as big springs a little further down the line. Always searching for a clue without, he fails to notice the presence of the perpetrator within.
The saint has no false notions of moral exemption. And so, he stays hot on the trail of sin's inner descent. It's not that he doesn't go out into the world, he just does so with a different point of view. Like the activist, the saint walks the streets of a sin-sick society and seeks to administer mercy. Yet the world to him is like a mirror. It merely serves to reflect back the wickedness of his own heart. The dark, dingy alleys that surround him pale in comparison to the putrid pathways of pride in his own heart.
After a job well done, the activist rests easy. As he drifts off to sleep, he whispers a prayer; "God, give me one more day to make a difference." The saint next door is wide awake. He stares up at the ceiling and prays quietly; "Search me O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
These days, God is gently teaching me that he doesn't need any more activists, but that saints are in short supply.