by Christopher L. Heuertz
This book is a personal journey to some of the poorest places on earth, and when we follow, we gain profound insights on following Jesus.
InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2008, 160 pages, $15.00.
—Reviewed by Jonathan B. Edwards, member care director, CAM International, Dallas, Texas.
Spiritual poverty is a concept that is hard to get one’s head around. Henri Nouwen once said, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are those who care for the poor.’ He said, ‘Blessed are we where we are poor, where we are broken.’ It is there that God loves us deeply and pulls us into deeper communion with himself.” Chris Heuertz takes that elusive truth and makes it stick. This book is not a polemic on poverty, but a personal journey to some of the poorest places on earth, and when we follow, we gain profound insights on following Jesus. Out of his own life and ministry with Word Made Flesh, Heuertz tells stories from the slums and the ghettos—from his life among the very poor—that draw us into the heart of Jesus.
He rightly understands Jesus’ meeting with blind Bartimaeus not only as a miracle of healing, but as an object lesson in spiritual seeing for the disciples—and for us. He offers five stones to slay the giants that keep us from seeing Christ that come out of his spiritual journey. These are the “lifestyle celebrations” of the Word Made Flesh family—humility, community, simplicity, submission, and brokenness. The five core chapters address these aspects of spirituality.
Humility slays pride and arrogance. Heuertz admits what we all know: that writing about humility is a minefield where we are easily tripped up by pride. But it is humility that opens our eyes to the discovery of God. Community slays individualism and independence. As one who is endeavoring to guide our missionary teams into community, I found in this chapter a potent challenge to our traditional approach to doing mission.
Simplicity slays intemperance and excess. As a life-long pack rat, I tried, unsuccessfully, to duck this chapter. Here we are helped to see that true simplicity of lifestyle is redemptive in our relationships, not another form of legalism. The issues of power and control, so deadly to relationships, are dealt with in the chapter on submission. The author illuminates the interrelationship of transparency, vulnerability, and submission, which he characterizes as “the voluntary expression of love.”
Brokenness slays triumphalism, defiance, and resistance. In the midst of extreme poverty in Kolkata (Calcutta), the author witnessed horrifying degradation and experienced personal brokenness. “God used those images,” he reflects, “to show me some of the false identities that I cling to.” Heuertz’ intent is not that we will all become missionaries to the poor, but that we will have the eyes to see the poor, the spiritually impoverished, who are all around us. This is the book I have been searching for. I will read it, absorb it, and then send a copy to all of our member care people. It is not a “how to” book on spiritual disciplines, but it gets to the heart of spirituality. It will become a central text for our spiritual formation conferences.
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