As never before in the history of Christendom, those of us who call ourselves Christians, are standing face to face with a reality we cannot ignore – the daily plight of 6.7 billion people living in abject poverty, suffering famine, enduring rampant diseases, and suffering shocking injustices; which together, produces unimaginable human suffering on a scale never before seen in human history. Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, brings this harsh reality into clear focus in his book, The Hole In Our Gospel.
I must admit, this raw, unvarnished picture of human suffering was difficult to read. Several times I had to put it down, and wipe the tears from my eyes. More than once, I closed the book, and went to my knees in prayer. Reading this book will give you a new appreciation for what Jesus meant by the words, “unto the least of these.”
In a knowledgeable, loving way, Richard Stearns brings his readers face to face with the reality of human suffering, and the unnecessary plight of millions of poor around the world, most of whom are children.
Reading this book reminded me of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and it made be ask the tough question, “Who is my neighbor?” I believe the church in America stands at a crossroad of titanic proportions. We have the opportunity to answer this question in a way that could radically and eternally transform our world!
Here is what I mean. Addressing the core issues underlying poverty and injustice requires three things: awareness, access and ability. For the first time in the history of the church, all three are available to this generation of American Christians. Advances in communication over the past fifty years – communication satellites, cable TV, the internet, YouTube, and cell phones – have made globalization a reality for nearly everyone in America. We live in a media-saturated and internet-connected world. We know, or we can find out, what is happening around the world almost instantly.
We also have access to places and people around the globe as never before. International travel is possible for most Americans today. In fact, over 150 million Americans traveled internationally last year. In our association of 128 churches, groups are going on international mission trips every month. Access is no longer a barrier.
Finally, we also have the ability to do something about human need around the world. As Stearns points out, “The American Church . . . is the wealthiest community of Christians in the history of Christendom. How wealthy? The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion.” We have the ability!
This generation of American churchgoers has the awareness, the access and the ability to address the world-wide problems of poverty and human suffering like no previous generation in history. So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t we doing more?
I’m convinced awareness, access and ability alone is not enough. There must also be a desire to do something. This is the missing ingredient! I also believe the desire to act is inextricably linked to attitude. Our attitude toward the world, toward ourselves, and toward our resources determines what we do with what we know. So, how do we change our attitude?
In my opinion, only One person can change our self-serving, self-centered attitude, and that person is Jesus. Paul challenged the believers in Philippi, “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And, in human form He obediently humbled Himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
In other words, we need to have God’s attitude toward the world. His attitude is clearly described in John 3:16. Also, we need to have Jesus’ attitude, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Each character in the parable of the Good Samaritan made a choice. In a very real sense, the Church is walking down a road in human history, and we’ve come upon those whose lives and future has been ravaged by the injustice, disease, and poverty. They are beaten down, and are totally helpless to defend themselves or pick themselves up. Death is imminent and certain. What will we do? We are aware of who they are, and where they are; we have access to them; and we have the ability to do something. What will we choose to do?
And, more importantly, when we stand before the “righteous Judge on that day” what will He say we did or did not do, “unto the least of these”?
I would urge you to read Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole In Our Gospel for yourself. I guarantee it will have an impact on how you understand your responsibility as a follower of Christ. It may frighten you, but it will also empower and inspire you to be “salt and light” in the dark and bleak world. It challenged me to take a long look at the resources God has entrusted me so I might know how He wants me to invest them in His Kingdom.