Red Letters

28 Jun

Tom Davis, CEO of Children’s Hope Chest, has written a little book applying Jesus’ teachings (the “red letters”) to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and other needs around the world.  I found it helpful in stirring my heart to care like Jesus does for the “least of these.”  Even though I’ve adopted two children from Africa, I can still be guilty of ignoring the overwhelming need I left behind there.   

Reading Davis’ statistics and stories moved me as I thought about my own daughter.  There are countless others like her orphaned due to a disease they had no control over.  “The worst thing about HIV/AIDS is how it destroys the lives of its innocent victims.  I’m talking about babies who are born HIV positive…These victims are dying by the hundreds and thousands.” (pg. 58)

“Early in 2003,” writes Davis, “over a third of the adult population [of Zimbabwe for example] was infected with HIV.  It is estimated that at least one in three of today’s fifteen-year-olds in Zimbabwe will die from AIDS…Over a million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS.” (pg. 71)

Davis argues that the church has not done enough to help.  He pleads for Christians to practice Jesus’ words, including: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  He offers many suggestions for how an ordinary person like you and me can make a big difference, and adoption is only one.  Children’s Hope Chest has several programs for getting involved, like 5 for 50.  He lists many other organizations as well.  My mind is whirring with the thoughts and ideas presented in the book.

If you are not familiar with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the world and need your heart stirred, then I recommend the Red Letters.  Some books of this nature can be very negative and accusatory about the church but I didn’t get that from Red Letters.  I thought it appropriately challenged Christians to take Christ’s commands seriously. 

One clarifying remark I would like to add concerns what the Gospel is and isn’t.  I totally agree the Gospel is meant to be lived out in our daily lives.  The Gospel doesn’t just inform us, it affects us, it changes us.  But I disagree, in so far as Davis meant this, that the acts of compassion we do are what the Gospel is all about.  (see pg. 14)

The Gospel is all about the compassion of God in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die in the place of undeserving sinners like you and me and how we can be reconciled to God through faith in Him.  The Gospel is a message about what God has done for us – not what we do for others.  The Gospel motivates and compels us to extend compassion to other people.  We love, the Bible says, because He first loved us (I John 4: 19).  But our compassion is not itself the Gospel.  It’s an example of the Gospel, lived-out imperfectly in Christians’ lives, but the Gospel stands alone as what God has done for us. 

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