After I graduated from university, I moved back to my mom’s home. I was pretty beaten down and depressed at the time. I had studied East African socialism and saw all its self serving bureaucracies, and I really didn’t have enough confidence to finish my masters by doing field work. I knew it wouldn’t be good for me. I had been involved in radical politics but it led only to disillusion and discouragement. I idolized Gandhi and MLK but it seemed no one else cared to much about the dream. The next chapter in implementing the dream seemed to be even harder than the first.
On Wednesday night, I don’t know how. I found myself at a college and careers group at a church in Newport Beach. I don’t remember what the talk was about but I remember arguing with the pastor after the meeting. From my view, he was the typical tall handsome straight-laced upper middle class Christian conservative with a theology to insolate his mind and emotions from the world of suffering that I was so aware of. I had been to church every weekend by my own choosing since I was thirteen. I read my bible regularly, and I was a Stanford educated intellectual leftist radical.
I do not know how the discussion had gotten to discussion of the gospel, but I remember speaking to a few kids who stayed after the study. I preached my version of the gospel. I said, "Jesus died to reveal the path of self sacrifice. We are to give up our selfish self centered American dream and live for the suffering of the world. That is the gospel." I am sure I probably cussed a little for shock value.
I distinctly remember saying it. It is hard to put into writing, but I said, "Don’t give me this Jesus died for sin line. That is just your way to avoid the message of sacrifice and love and avoid the teachings of Jesus." My worldview was not the evangelical worldview. I was frustrated and longing for a means to change the world, and I saw that church and their message as completely irrelevant. As I left the meeting the pastor said to me, "Read the gospel of John". What a strange thing to say I thought. I remember getting in my car and saying to myself, "I hate these people".
I don’t know if it was that very night or if it was a month later but I did read the gospel of John. I had probably read the Gospel of John ten times. I had been involved in hundreds of arguments and discussions about religion and Paul and the message of Jesus. But I was living in the perfect storm of idealism, powerlessness, and bible reading.
I read the following. "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". This was spoken by John the Baptist before Jesus had begun His ministry. I saw the scene in my mind as a prophesy about Jesus’ calling, his vocation, in the world. He had yet to "speak truth to power" but his calling from eternity was sure. I began to weep.
What hit me like a bomb was completely unexpected. Without warning, I became, from nowhere, wonderfully aware of my own weakness. It is not just about the bondage and the slavery of others that need to be advocated for but I am a slave, I am in bondage and God almighty has sent an advocate for me. At this time in my life, I would flinch if someone touched me. I was a college wrestler and a fighter. I was bald and angry. But in one moment, someone who mattered, the only one who mattered brought me low and made me one of the poor of the world. The problem which created all the suffering of the world I was in myself. In a moment, I saw the real root cause of the plight of all mankind. Sin and I was just as sick as all the sickest of the world.
I had the solution. My entire worldview was completely changed.
I remember a few days later I went back to that College and Careers Bible study. As I left the meeting, I again sat in my car, and with tears in my eyes, I said to myself, "God, I love these people". In one moment, I was given a gift that I never knew I wanted, "Faith in the gospel and love for all the saints".