Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Impressed series. Be sure to follow the rest of the series HERE.
Most of us have heard heart-wrenching statistics about the marginalized and oppressed around the globe: numbers like more than 26,000 children die each day primarily from preventable causes. What about the fact that 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day? Or 5 million individuals die each year from water-related diseases – in other words, lack of clean water.
These numbers are powerful; the kind that kick you in the gut.
But in an age when there are vast resources and advancements, and when we have endless information – like these sobering statistics – at our disposal, why is it that these scenarios even exist?
In an age when there are vast resources and advancements, and when we have endless information – like these sobering statistics – at our disposal, why is
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it that these scenarios even exist?
That’s the question that left a gaping impression on me as I began to read The Hole in Our Gospel about three years ago. I picked up the book after going to a World Vision “Step Into Africa” mobile exhibit in my hometown. The interactive exhibit allows you to journey into AIDS-affected communities in Africa, all through the eyes of a child. You walk a piece of the child’s daily life – hearing about his family and upbringing, seeing a replica of his modest home, and ultimately learning whether or not he’s diagnosed HIV-positive.
I was wrecked after that experience. God was stirring something new in me and opening my eyes to better see the world as He does. And when God starts to stir, watch out!
The Hole In Our Gospel is written by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision – a well-respected Christian relief and development agency. It shares Stearns’ journey of leaving a cushy career as CEO of a lucrative business to work as an advocate for the world’s forgotten and marginalized. It also asks a probing question: have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?
Reading The Hole In Our Gospel was like putting alcohol on a wound: stung it did, but oh so much healing and good from it! Stearns’ book left me with many lasting impressions, but probably the biggest had to do with the growing disparity between the haves and have nots. Sharing part of a speech from former President Jimmy Carter, Stearns lays out another round of startling facts. In 1913, the gap between the richest and the poorest countries was 11 to 1, and in 1950, it was 35 to 1. By 2002, the gap was 75 to 1.
Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?
Maybe your jaw just dropped like mine when I read these numbers. You and I are part of this latest generation, this most recent statistic.
For much of my Christian life, I’ve lived knowing about the poor and oppressed. I saw plenty of news reports, heard first-hand accounts from missionaries at church. Heck, I grew up practically memorizing Sally Struthers’ TV commercials from the ‘80s pleading to help feed starving children in Africa! But as Stearns impressed on my heart and mind, “Our problem is that the plight of suffering children in a far-off land simply hasn’t gotten personal for us.”
The Bible calls us to make it our personal mission to love the destitute.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The American Church is the wealthiest group of Christians in the history of the Church. At the time Stearns wrote The Hole In Our Gospel, he reports that American churchgoers had a total income of $5.2 trillion. And of that, just a little over 1 percent would be needed to raise the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty.
“Our problem is that the plight of suffering children in a far-off land simply hasn’t gotten personal for us.”
If you’ve read this far, you may feel like you’ve just received a beat-down. I’m with you. But I dare you to read The Hole In Our Gospel in its entirety. It’ll mess with you, just like it’s messed with me. But it’s all worth it. God has graciously been impressing on me and challenging me over the past three years to learn more about what it means to love my neighbor as He does – those literally next door and those half-ways around the world. There are lots of bumps and bruises to show for it, and by no means have I arrived, but the journey is worth it.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
*All statistics come from The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Interested in reading The Hole in Our Gospel? Check it out HERE!
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