In chapter 2 of Gary Haugen’s Just Courage, the author begins by asking a question:
Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, a nationwide youth ministry, used to say, ‘It’s a sin to bore a kid with the gospel.’ But what about adults? Is it okay to bore grown-ups with the gospel? (p. 25)
Haugen points out that, having been rescued from sin and brokenness and all the tears us away from God, and having had the adventurous gospel and abundant life described in Scripture promised to us, many of us feel as though something isn’t right: “at the end of the day we thought our Christian life would be more than this—somehow larger, more significant, more vivid, more glorious.” Every Christian must at some point ask and wrestle with the question, “Now what?” Haugen’s prescription for discovering the answer to that question is found in asking another one: “For what?” He writes, “For what purpose have we been rescued and redeemed? In order to know what is supposed to come next, we must have a clear understanding of the ultimate destination of our spiritual journey” (p. 28)
This reminds me of one of those “gospel presentation” verses in the Bible that is sometimes used to help us respond to God’s gift of salvation in its personal reconciliation dimension, Ephesians 2:8-9, which reads:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (TNIV)
Unfortunately, verse 10 is usually absent. When we read it along with verses 8-9, we actually get a better picture of what “salvation” is actually all about (compare with James 2 re: faith and works) and we move toward the answer to the “for what?” question:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (TNIV)
Haugen answers the question primarily by pointing to Jesus’ words in the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s Gospel, “You are the light of the world” (5:14). This is a grander vision that anything we could have dreamed up—“it’s not that we have too much ambition for ourselves; it’s that we don’t have nearly enough” (p. 31). If the gospel envisions us as part of a great rescue operation, why do we miss that calling?
Haugen offers three reasons. I’ll only list and describe them briefly because he’ll come back to each and address them in future chapters.
- Ignorance. We may not be aware of the depth of need. We might have an inkling of it, but this is a challenge of suburban Christian life—most of us moved to the suburbs to avoid deep problems, not to be called to engage them. Therefore, we may have found ways of protecting our ignorance. We may not be doing this out of sinister plotting, just more or less by accident, not paying attention to what has happened.
- Despair. Others of us know so much about the depth of human need both near and far from us that we get into a cycle of despair. Our problem is not ignorance but paralysis. We help where we are in some meaningful ways, but don’t get much into the greater struggle.
- Fear. Some of us, though, are simply afraid to respond: “The world of disastrous human suffering is scary, and for very understandable reasons we are afraid” (p. 33).
We don’t like these qualities, but one or more of them may be true of us… This is the dilemma personally. This is the dilemma addressed throughout the remainder of the book: How do we go “from rescued to rescuer?”