We celebrate Easter this Sunday because Jesus died and was resurrected so that you and I can spend eternity with him. In Matthew 18:2-4 he lays out the blueprint for what we need to do.
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them (his disciples). Then he said, “I tell you the truth unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (bolded lettering mine)
The somber words lack loopholes. If you and I want to get to Heaven, we must be like children: vulnerable; needy; dependent. Gary Haugen, author of Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian, writes that these aren’t adjectives most Christians use to describe themselves. The majority—and I include myself here—are cut out for a “more muscular” approach to the life of Christ.
Haugen’s book was recommended to me by my son, Adam. On page one, the author speaks of his college experience when he read John Stuart Mill’s 1859 essay “On Liberty.” In explaining why words lose their meaning, Mills used the example of Christians who have the ability to say the most wonderful things without believing them. I get it.
Take the words we say, for example. “It’s better to give than receive.” “Judge not, lest you be judged.” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Haugen questioned how differently he would live his life if he actually believed those things. (I would add “If we lived like the Resurrection is real.”)
He ultimately would find out. Rejecting the safe, easy path, Haugen instead would yield himself to God’s calling and give up his job as a prosecutor at the Department of Justice to start a non-profit organization determined to rescue helpless individuals. As founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), Haugen has spent the majority of his adult life rescuing young girls trapped in the sex trade industry, abused orphans and widows, and slaves (yes, actual slaves—more than 40,000,000!) tortured while laboring in work mills. Through some of those projects, Adam came to know this remarkable man.
Rarely do I recommend a book, but this is an exception. Page after page, I could insert my name in Haugen’s pre-conversion lifestyle description:
- I prefer safety and security and too often will miss the adventure instead of gambling on the unknown.
- I would rather be an adult than a child “where I can still pull things together if God doesn’t show up.”
- I do not have set times for prayer. (Haugen models his organization’s dependence on prayer after Mother Theresa’s who couldn’t imagine doing her work for more than 30 minutes without prayer.) When Adam joined Haugen at his headquarters, he was amazed when an 11:00 A.M. bell rang, all work stopped and everyone prayed. Why? In Haugen’s words, “We don’t do this so much as a matter of discipline but out of desperation.”
Haugen’s book is a call to action for Christians who know there is more than words, who feel a sense of disappointment in the way their life is turning out, who want their life in Christ to be more significant, more vivid, more glorious. He calls it a “holy yearning for more.” I call it “making Jesus’ Resurrection real.”
If those words describe your heart’s cry to serve God more authentically, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian is a great place to start.