The Hole in Our Gospel

If you went to the Bible and removed all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping the really vulnerable, like orphans, you would leave a gigantic hole in the Christian Gospel. That is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. Stearns also says that this is basically what Christians have done.

We skip reading those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios, and we’re big into asking how Jesus can help me in my life. We use the Bible to find out how we’re going to be better and how we’re going to excel in life with Jesus. Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.

But how does that relate to what Jesus said: that all the law can be summed up in love your neighbor as yourself? In our “best life now” scenarios, we lose that. We’re not loving our neighbor.

Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. When you read statistics on poverty, you don’t feel like you can help. When you read how bad these issues are, everywhere in the world, you wonder, “What can my one dollar really do? Or my fifty cents, or my five dollars, or even my five hundred dollars?”

Stearns shows how the statistics can be overwhelming, deceiving, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, and that’s trying to figure out a way to alleviate poverty.

And then he shows how effective we can be. He shows how we can alleviate poverty. We do it as the body of Christ. We do it as His Church.

Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about the early church, and what Jesus tried to do. This is why Christians came together as churches in the first place.

But in the Western church today, we get into our own little bubbles. We create these mega-churches. They offer yoga classes, Starbucks in the lobby, all these things intended for the comfort of their own people. I understand the importance of discipling, but the impression these mega-churches give is that they only care about themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.

We’re supposed to be a church as a whole, a church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to go out into the communities of the world to figure out who needs help. And then we’re supposed to get together and help!

Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage and bring joy where there is none.” And when He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s our fulfillment in Christ. That’s our real “best life now” scenario. Who is with me?

See you Thursday.

Let’s Set the Captives Free!

Those of us who are not enslaved are so happy to hear about Jesus, who came to set the captives free.  Just imagine how much sweeter His message will sound to the millions who are literally, physically enslaved the world over!

Churches are increasingly participating in the fight against human trafficking, and they should be. Jesus came to set the captives free, so that’s what the church should be doing. Jesus asked people what they needed and then met those needs. That’s what the church should be doing. Our love comes from Jesus, who died so the slaves could be free.

I’m Happy!

As I’ve described, my first few years as a professional athlete were filled with struggle. I wasn’t very happy. Now I’m so happy with my job! I’m happy because I do it with an attitude of loving my neighbor as myself. I get to play baseball with the understanding that I’m playing to serve God and my neighbor, and there is freedom in that.

After I first met Dave Batstone and joined up with the Not For Sale Campaign, we started brainstorming ideas to connect baseball and modern abolition.

Continue reading

Your Neighbor is Hungry!

When I first started learning about the love-your-neighbor-as-yourself mentality, my spirit grabbed it. I mean, I was really excited. I said, “This is it!”

But then when God started teaching me about poverty, I really started digging. I’ve been researching poverty ever since. Poverty is a whole world of interconnected causes and consequences. The more I learned, the more I understood poverty’s complications, and the more I understood how people get trapped in it. And I could feel myself shifting.

I used to look at a homeless guy and say, “Man, you know what, how about you just go get a job. Shave, and go get a job at McDonald’s. It’s not that hard.” That’s how I used to look at it. I had no compassion. Continue reading

Know Your Neighbor’s Needs

The first great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The day I realized that these are not two commandments, but one single commandment, was a day of revelation for me. It took me a few years of searching to see it, but when this realization came home, then BAM! I thought I knew all I needed to know. I was so excited to get started. So I founded an organization called Generation Alive.

Initially, it was about training young people to lead, and to dream really big. That’s why I started Generation Alive. I said, “Okay, you know, I have to figure out some way to love my neighbor as myself. I want to love on young people. I want to tell them to dream really big.” So I got this huge idea to start a non-profit. I hired a guy to serve as Generation Alive’s director. We got into a couple of schools, and we talked about dreaming big. It seemed like it was going well, but nothing ever really caught on. Generation Alive was failing. Continue reading

A Gospel of Sustainment

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:13-15

Last time I said that Jesus Himself would work to distribute the One World Futbol, because it’s unpoppable. Why would I say that?

When you visit a poverty-stricken community, the first thing you notice is also the most obvious thing. They can’t afford anything. In many parts of the world, people have grown so poor that they really can’t even afford to eat. Their voices are silent.

How we can help them? Whatever we decide to do, the results need to be sustainable.

Jesus’ whole concept was sustainment. Continue reading