Forgetting to Begin

The following post is submitted by Diane Cooper, one our new staff members.The neighbors were having a yard sale.  So my Saturday morning began at 6:30 a.m. with sounds of car doors slamming, dogs barking, and the low hum of voices as negotiations commenced between the neighbors and dealers from local flea markets.    Sleeping in was clearly not an option, so I stood in the doorway with my latte watching the cars come and go.

As I perused the merchandise from afar, the sun reflected on what appeared to be a beautiful aqua-colored pitcher that would look great with my water glasses.  Suddenly, I was pulled into the fray.  The kids and I scrounged up seven dollars, grabbed our jackets, and hustled across the street in pursuit of the sparkling treasure.  We made it just in time to watch a little girl skipping away with it, probably to use for her dolly’s tea party!  Irritated, we decided to rummage through whatever was left.

We scored a pair of espresso mugs, a cooler, and an assortment of twenty-five cent books.  My quarter find was titled, “The Hole in our Gospel”.  I’d never heard of the book or the author, Richard Stearns, but the cover identified him as President of World Vision, an organization that helps bring aid to impoverished people all around the world. The title intrigued me, so I spent the coin.

That was two weeks ago.  Now I’ve actually taken the book out of the fifty-cent cooler we bought, and I can’t seem to put it down. It turns out Stearns was the CEO of Lenox, the monstrously successful fine china company, when World Vision approached him to join their organization.   He was at the height of his career, rolling in money and living in luxury, when he was asked to move, take a huge salary cut, and run a company that looked after “the least of these” - the poor, the sick, the orphaned and the oppressed.  He went from running a company that catered to the wealthiest to one that served the poorest.

Reading on to learn just what this man considered to be the “hole” in our gospel, my interest piqued when I came to a section entitled “Matthew 25”.  Knowing this scripture passage is slated as the focal point of Downtown Church’s November Reveal sermon,  I was curious about his take.  The chapter in Matthew depicts Jesus teaching about the final judgement, saying people will be separated into two groups as sheep and goats.  The sheep are told they may enter the Kingdom because “while I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink, while I was hungry you gave me something to eat, etc.”  You may be familiar with the passage, or you may remember the Cake song, “Sheep Go to Heaven, Goats Go to Hell.”  Either way, you get the point.

In the book, Stearns hones in on the fact that the two groups were not sorted by who had confessed faith in Jesus Christ and who had not, but rather by who had “acted in tangible and loving ways toward the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the vulnerable” and who had not.  He paraphrases Jesus’ address to the “goats”:

“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.”

He went on in the next chapter to talk about how believing in Jesus is only the beginning.  It is the first step, not the end game.  We are not asked to believe and then sit around awaiting the reward for our belief.   Believing should always lead to the next step, which is going out and doing something.

Jewel had a song in the nineties that said,  “We’re so worried about saving our souls, afraid that God will take his toll, that we forget to begin.”  We get so bogged down with this idea that we have to think the right things, believe the right things, and act a certain way that we forget to take the next step, to go and do something.

We forget to begin the work of the Kingdom.

Are we really believing if we never begin doing?