COLUMN: No one is an island

Published 6:42 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Tom Long, that incredible preacher in our lifetime, tells about a lady who lives in Haiti. Well, she’s actually from Wisconsin. But why she moved there is the rest of the story. 

Perhaps no portion of the little country is any poorer than parts of its largest city, Port-au-Prince. There in a neighborhood was the little woman from Wisconsin named Ruth as Long arrived on his mission trip.

Ruth began doing an obvious but complicated thing: she removes abandoned children from the streets. Children who have physical or mental handicaps. She has a home now for about 30 children. 

One of the members of Tom Long’s mission team said of Ruth, “I think I’ve just been in the presence of a Saint.” Someone in the group asked her what kept her from getting discouraged, since the need is always there. They also asked her if she felt that her work was effective.

Ruth gave an answer that perhaps any pastor would give: “I try not to let myself think about effectiveness. I try to discipline myself to just do what I can do today, one child at a time, and let the Lord worry about tomorrow.” 

Long observes that people who go into any type of mission, benevolent or hunger-related ministries, worried mostly about effectiveness from the get-go rarely ever stick around for very long. 

They’ll jump tracks quickly as results of doing the right thing don’t always show themselves soon enough. Will Willimon notes that Jesus didn’t say a word about effectiveness. He cared about faithfulness first. 

Jesus only asked “Did you feed those who were hungry? Did you clothe those who needed clothing?” These were the kinds of real, indicative needs on his mind as he spoke in Matthew 25: 31-46.

Oh, I know that those who track things like money and volunteer or employee hours, they will worry about effectiveness. That’s what they do. 

But in the end, it’s God’s job to worry about effectiveness. It’s our job to be faithful. To be a credit to the One who has shaped a call within us, serving each other here, and beyond our community, and globally. Why? Because no one is an island.   

I think I will never understand the disconnect that any of us can have, really, between what we say we believe vs. what we are willing to do in the name of the God of that same faith. Including the things that Jesus said we would do, or cease doing, if we truly were followers after him.

Yet there are at least a couple of trends today in Christianity that disturb me. If you can help me to make any sense of this, I’d love to hear from you. 

A Forbes article some months ago was tracking a few trends in Charitable giving for 2023. One of those was that in the past year, only one-half of US households said they had or would be making a charitable gift of any kind. According to a CBS Money Watch article on the same subject, that is the lowest or worst rate in decades. 

A second trend that disturbs me is right within Christianity itself. I am calling on us to do better than this. In Evangelical Christianity, there is a growing movement of calling Jesus “weak.” That is, a growing tendency to let political and cultural opinions supersede the God of one’s own faith. To say that the ways and words of Jesus are “liberal” and “weak.” 

That’s right, many of the same people who are claiming salvation in Jesus Christ are outright saying that his ways don’t work. One article on this latter trend began with a story of a pastor who read scripture. Specifically, he read from Isaiah 61, the very same verses that Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of. 

That pastor was met at the back door by church members who accused him of being a liberal. When he pointed out that Isaiah and Jesus were the authors of these words in the Bible, they told him that Jesus’ teachings were “weak” and wouldn’t work in the real world. 

We include people in our lives who are different from us not because we understand or even like everyone. But because no one is an island, and because Jesus did. Also because we aren’t ready to renounce our faith in him or call him weak. Or liberal. Or irrelevant. Or out of touch with the real world. Or wrong. At least I’m not. Are you?

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.