Monday, September 5, 2011

The Muse Reviews: The Hole in Our Gospel

A provocative book about Christianity that will make you take a good look at how you live and whether you are truly living like Christ in this world. And yes, it is a must-read.

If the title The Hole in Our Gospel isn't enough to grab you (and I don't know how that could be, but you never know), then maybe the subtitle will provoke you: The Answer That Changed My Life and Just Might Change the World. With words like that on the cover, you're either going to pick up this book immediately or you're going to turn away from it wholeheartedly.

But isn't that the way it is with the Gospel? Jesus Himself said, people are going to take it or leave it. Not a lot of riding the fence in His way of doing things.

If you have a chance to pick up this book, then do so. Don't be deterred by its provocative title. The book is well worth the time and effort, for Christian and non-Christian alike. Do be prepared, however, because more than this title are going to challenge you. The chapters, one by one, are going to make you think about how you live and what you value.

The author, Richard Stearns, has been president of the charity World Vision for ten years. He wrote this book based on the lessons he has learned about the way we often live our Christianity in America, versus what the Bible says. His point is simple but profound in its implications: We often try to live as Christians, but we fail because we keep stumbling over the hole that we've allowed to exist in our Gospel. There's a key thing we haven't been doing, and because of it, we are not able to fully embrace all that Jesus teaches us to do.

What is the hole? It's summed up in a verse from the book of James: Pure and undefiled religion is feeding the widows and orphans, and keeping ourselves clean. We struggle with the latter part, and maybe that's because we're spending too much time on ourselves, rather than doing the first part.

The statistics in the book are staggering: Only 5% of the world's Christians live in the U.S., yet we own 50% of the wealth. Over a billion people worldwide live below the poverty line (defined as earning at least $1 a day, enough to feed themselves daily.) It would take $65 billion to feed those below the poverty line daily, relieving them of all the problems that come when they don't eat regularly. Americans only give an average of 2.58% of their income to our churches, but if we gave an average of just 10%, we'd raise an extra $168 billion a year.

That's enough to feed the poor ($65 billion), and still have over $100 billion left over to do other things too!

So, what's our excuse for not making this kind of difference in our world? Stearns challenges us all to consider where our money is going. Where our time and talents are going. And whether we might want to do something that will change people's lives and free them to live. To really live.

The needs of the world seem overwhelming if you think you need to fix them all. But if you simply choose to be reasonable and do the little bit you can do, coupled with the little bits that everyone else can do, then together we could literally make it possible for people around the world to step up from subsistence to enough stability that they can begin to reach for their own dreams, make a difference in their communities, and share their talents.

Stearns believes that is what the Gospel is all about. Helping people live...body, soul, and spirit. You may not be as sure about it as he is. But his book will go a long way toward convincing you. If he provokes even a few people to do more than they are doing now to help others, he will have accomplished a great deal. But hopefully, he'll do even more... He'll provoke a revolution that radically influences how we live and how we interact with the parts of the world we may never visit, yet have the potential to change through our giving, our time, and our sharing.

Jesus did it in His time. Now, we can do the same.

For more about The Hole in Our Gospel, visit the book's website.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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