We are not saved BY works; we are saved FOR works.
Out of all the ideas and principles shared in Richard Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel, this statement impacted me the most profoundly. We all know this, of course, but reading it in the context of the ministry of World Vision and the immense poverty that still exists in today’s world gave it a whole new meaning.
Stearns begins his book by telling his own story. He grew up in a different kind of poverty in the United States but was blessed with opportunities to escape the alcoholism and financial instability that marked his childhood. He explains how he worked hard in school, received an Ivy League education, and discovered his need for Christ once he had achieved all that he thought would bring him contentment. From that point on, he became CEO of two major corporations, living the American Dream until the day that he was asked to consider leading World Vision, an international Christian ministry focused on alleviating world poverty.
The book is full of both heartbreaking and encouraging stories of what World Vision is doing in third world nations. Interspersed throughout the stories are Scriptural mandates that Christ gave concerning the poor and our responsibility as believers towards them. Not that we are saved by our works, but we are most definitely saved for the purpose of caring for those in need.
At several points in reading, my mind went back to Wess Stafford’s book Too Small to Ignore and the ministry that Compassion International does. While Stafford’s history is very different from Stearns’ history (one was a missionary kid in a poverty-stricken nation, the other grew up in difficult circumstances in the US), the two men and the two organizations seem to have reached the same conclusions about poverty and our responsibility regarding it. We are, simply, to look to the needs of others, to let our hearts be broken by the things that break God’s heart, and to do what we can to help.
For a greater understanding of the challenges that face our world as we seek to end poverty, this is a great place to start. The stories are inspiring, and the call to be involved in life changing ministry to hurting children is a very powerful one.