If you don't like "extreme" you may want to skip this one…
I recently finished the book Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. I understand that the title makes it sound lame. Text-bookish. Perhaps because the word “revolution” is overused. But when I say that this book revolutionized my thinking – I mean it in the truest sense of the word.
This is the first in a series of posts based on this book; none of which will be for the fainthearted. I agree with Francis Chan when he said, “I doubt anyone has ever accused K.P. Yohannan of soft-selling anything.”
Before I delve into the meat of this book, I want to prepare you – or rather, share with you how God prepared me for the material therein.
God reminded me of the vast, colossal difference between ignorance and indifference. Ignorance is one thing, but once you have information you become accountable to it. It is one thing to be unaware of an injustice, but to know of it and do nothing?
Proverbs 24: 11-12 says,
“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?”
If you’ve never heard, understood, been awakened to the suffering of the people around you, God is merciful to you. He does not hold you accountable for that which you have not known. He is fair and just indeed. Scripture says that He remembers that we are dust. He knows how small and feeble and sheep-like we are. He does not fault us for acting as what we are.
…woe to those who have heard of the plight of the needy and are foolish enough, selfish enough, lazy enough – to do nothing.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” [Proverbs 31:8-9]
“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” [Proverbs 21:13]
Woe to him who hears of his neighbor’s hunger and does nothing.
Woe to him who learns of a lost soul’s addiction and does not respond with love, compassion, help.
Woe to him who learns of the frustration and added difficulty of a person with a disability and does not offer his abilities to serve them humbly, like Christ would.
Woe to him who learns of the exhaustion and ache of a single parent, and does not give generously of his time, in service and in prayer.
If you have ever been moved by the suffering of a poverty-stricken outcast in India, an oppressed woman in the Middle East, a child soldier in the Sudan, a famine victim in Ethiopia, an orphan with Aids in Uganda, a freezing homeless man in your city -
If you have ever, at any point in your life become aware of, and thus accountable to the MILLIONS of people around the world who have never heard about the good news of Jesus Christ, who live without his peace, hope, and love; and who WILL DIE without his salvation –
And you have done nothing?
God calls you wicked. (Proverbs 29:7)
Try that word on. It’s ugly isn’t it? It feels dirty: like guilt, shame and accusation. I don’t like to think of myself as wicked. I doubt anyone does. I found myself thinking, “Why so harsh? I can’t possibly help everyone!” And that’s true, I can’t help everyone. But it is pretty pathetic to use that as an excuse to help no one.
Don’t we resent those who hurt our loved ones? Doesn’t it make us angry? It makes me angry! I will go to bat for Dan, and he for me. And in the same way, God will go to bat for a grieving widow. (Only more ferociously, because God is God, and He loves more ferociously.) He will go to bat for a neglected little boy. God will say to us in our selfishness, laziness, and apathy, “In your close-fisted selfishness, you are harming the apple of my eye.” He will tell us, “Your comfort is NOT more important that their salvation.”
“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” [Proverbs 14:31]
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” [1 John 3:17]
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” [Matthew 25: 34-45]
Being ignorant of a need is one thing – being indifferent is quite another. What information are you accountable to? And how, now, will you respond?
Those are the questions that God put into my heart about 2 weeks before I started reading Revolution in World Missions. This is already quite long, and I think the first set of quotes/statistics/challenges from RiWM deserves it’s own post. Coming soon.