Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did - 1 John 2:6
This weekend I am reading "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns. Richard is president of World Vision U.S. The book was loaned to me by a good friend. She and I were talking one evening about church and the purpose of church....and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way....church in America has veered into waters God never intended.
I've only read through Part One - The Hole in My Gospel-and Maybe Yours. Here are a few snippets from the book that are filling my thoughts on this Sunday afternoon:
"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now." - Saint Teresa of Avila
"Kindess has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning." -Frederick W. Faber
"More and more, our view of the gospel has been narrowed to a simple transaction, marked by checking a box on a bingo card at some prayer breakfast, registering a decision for Christ, or coming forward during an altar call. I have to admit that my own view of evangelism, based on the Great Commission, amounted to just that for many years. It was about saving as many people from hell as possible-for the next life. It minimized any concern for those same people in this life. It wasn't as important that they were poor or hungry or persecuted, or perhaps rich, greedy, and arrogant; we just had to get them to pray the "sinner's prayer" and then move on to the next potential convert." Richard Stearns p. 17
"Luke 4 is not the only place in the Bible that speaks to issues of poverty and justice. God's Word is replete with such passages, from Genesis to Revelation - but do we heed them?" -Richard Stearns p. 23
Richard tells the story of Jim Wallis a seminary student. Jim and some of his classmates did a little experiment. They went through all sixty-six books of the Bible and underlined every passage and verse that dealt with poverty, wealth, justice, and oppression. Then one of the students took a pair of scissors and cut out those passages. What was left was a volume in tatters that barely held together. From Genesis to Revelation these themes are central to Scripture.
As believers, shouldn't these themes be central to our lives?
Richard uses Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 to illustrate this point. He then goes on to paraphrase Matthew 25 (in the RESV-Richard E. Stearns Version) This hit me right between the eyes.
"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved."
Richard acknowledges that this is an irreverent version but he goes on to say that we have to face the clear implications that no matter how disquieting...God has clear expectations for His followers.
So this Sunday I'm thinking about what steps of faith can I take to demonstrate my own concern for "the least of these." What does that look like in my life? How is it manifested?
More to come....