What if you took a Bible and a pair of scissors, and cut out all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping really vulnerable people, like orphans?
What would be left?
A gigantic hole, that’s what. This is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. According to Stearns, this is basically what Christians have done. They’ve left a huge hole in the Gospel.
How do we do it? Somehow, we skip over those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios. 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. We focus on how we’re going to excel in life because we have Jesus.
Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.
So how does that relate to what Jesus said? When a scribe challenged Him to name the first commandment, Jesus replied:
“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
You shall love your neighbor as yourself! Jesus said that! But in our “best life now” scenarios, we lose it. We’re not loving our neighbors.
Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed 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, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, which is trying to figure out a way to make it better.
But Stearns also shows how statistics can be deceiving. You see, we can help. We can be effective. We can be very effective. We can end poverty! How? Easy! Don’t work alone. This is the calling of the Church. It’s the calling of the body of Christ.
Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about what Jesus did. Then read about the early church. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is the reason why Christians came together as churches in the first place.
We’ve lost that. We get into our own little bubbles. We create megachurches that offer yoga classes and Starbucks in the lobby. They focus on the comfort and nourishment of their own congregations.
I understand the importance of discipling. We all must become disciples. Some megachurches do radical, amazing things in this area, like the Los Angeles Dream Center. But all too often, megachurches give the impression that they are insular, turned within, and focused only on themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.
Christians are supposed to be the body of Christ in the world. Christians are supposed to be His hands and feet, His face, and His reflection. We are supposed to be a Church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to connect to the communities of the world, so that we can figure out who needs help. And when we know who needs help, we’re supposed to get together and take care of them.
We’re supposed to help!
Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage.” He said, “I am here to bring joy to those who have none.” Based on how people responded to Him when He was here, he made good on those promises.
When He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s what it means to be the Church. That’s our discipleship. That’s our fulfillment in Christ.
That’s our real “best life now” scenario!
Who is with me?
See you Tuesday.