Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These by David Z. Nowell
How well do you understand who “the least of these” refers to in the biblical context? Have you thought about the implications about this following passage in the Bible: “Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ” Matthew 25:41-45? How do you think this passage applies to you today? What about your local church family? How do these verses impact your church’s ministries? These questions, and many more, are addressed in this short 181-page book. Not only does it explain exactly what “dirty faith” is, the author demonstrates it, showcasing a particular ministry in Brazil that shines its light into some of the darkest corners in the world.
“This is a book about perspectives and possibilities. It is about looking at our world through the lens of grace, about seeing people as Christ does. It is about a different way of extending grace to and beyond the community of faith. It is about compassion–hurting alongside those in need. But again, it is not about a super-Christianity; I don’t find that concept in the New Testament. It is about normative faith, the kind that lives out the life of Christ.” The key to this book is not just in reading about someone else’s work for the poor and ‘the least of these.’ “Scripture does not know about an arm’s length faith.” The book is meant to stir the reader’s heart, to shake us out of our lethargy, and infuse us with fire in our spirits. It’s not written to overwhelm us with the colossal needs of the vulnerable, but to offer examples of how to change our perceptions so that we can find a niche where we fit in.
While the author pummels us with grim statistics about the “least of these” around the world, I still found the book a great source of hope. What has been done in the name of Christ has wrought transformed hearts in the most seemingly hopeless cases. I learned about individuals and their circumstances and how their transformation has impacted their lives, their families’ lives, their neighborhood and beyond. I encourage you to read this book, allow your heart to be shredded and regenerated by the hope and joy found in these stories.
I found this book gripping. It was hard to put down once I started reading it. David Nowell talks to us in plain, simple language, as if it were a face to face conversation. Not only does he share the stories of Hope Unlimited for Children, but he teaches us truths he learned through his experiences getting his hands dirty and his heart entangled in the lives of those he served. I couldn’t read this book and remain passive about the plight of the children he was in continual contact with.
Then the author takes a stand and points out the reason more children are not impacted for good by the Church. “Many of us have become practitioners of a sterile faith, hiring professional Christians as the mercenaries of the kingdom. There are churches with no greater relevance than the local school, Rotary Club, United Way, or 4-H Club. This isn’t dirty faith. It’s sterile, sanitized, keep-the-world-at-arm’s-length-so-we-can-enjoy- our-blessings faith, a baptized version of the local Y. Have we become a church of believers rather than followers?” This is not exactly a popular idea.
A well thought-out challenge is issued to the community of believers. But he doesn’t just address the collective Church and leave it at that. Too many readers would just treat it as impersonal information, perhaps pray about it once or twice, then move on unchanged and indifferent. The truth is a piercing sword that cleanses while it cuts out the dross. In his challenge, I felt hope that more believers in Christ could become followers of Christ. The challenge isn’t just for the Church in some vague sense of a call to duty, but is a call to you and me, individually. Our transformation can shift the direction of the Church to once again point to Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, the Author and Finisher of our Faith that wants us to becomes doers of the Word and not hearers only.
“Important point: All the language in Scripture about what God expects of us, and then what He will do for us, was not–is not– an abstraction. ‘Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to’ (Deuteronomy 15:10). None of this is a hypothetical. It was proven in the laboratory of the church of Jerusalem. They took God’s words at face value, and it proved out for them.” Nothing in this book is brand new. It is an application of Scripture as the early Christian community of Christ followers applied it. They lived it and proved it over and over again. To me, this is a challenge to ditch our cultural traditions that exist in the name of Christianity and move back to a Christ-centered community that focuses on giving not taking, on healing and sharing instead of protecting ourselves and focusing on our own welfare.
I would love to see this book the focus of group Bible studies with the purpose of loosening up and reaching out more. I believe the book’s goal is to reach the heart of Christians who are coasting, overly self-sufficient, unfocused or self-focused, living outside of God’s provision, who have lost the vision Jesus of Nazareth gave to His disciples. It is not an evangelistic book, yet it is all about evangelism, because God’s work cannot flow from a dead heart and from a dead Church. Go ahead. Read the book. I dare you!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher’s blog review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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