HeuSimp 08-08-116 

Simple Spirituality

Learning to See God in a Broken World


Christopher L. Heuertz

InterVarsity Press, 2008, 159 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3621-5   



Chris Heuertz is the international director of Word Made Flesh, an organization that exists to serve Jesus among the most vulnerable of the world's poor.  He has traveled in nearly seventy countries.


The contents are the values of Word Made Flesh: Humility, Community, Simplicity, Submission, Brokenness


"A new evangelicalism has emerged in post-religious-right America, and we are seeing a Christianity that is closer to the poor, further from the drums of war, a Christianity that looks a little more like Jesus."  Shane Claiborne in the Foreword


1.  Humility

"Humility is a hard one for me.  As central to our faith, it's the most daring conversation to enter, lest pride trip you up at any discovery or conclusion." (32)  "It's humility that opens our eyes to the discovery of God.  The self-righteous seem to have the hardest time recognizing God." (33)


"It is in our intimate relationships with people who are poor, or more accurately our friends who happen to be poor, that our tainted views of God are transformed."  "Through their desperation and forced vulnerability, they help us see what intimacy with God looks like." (37)


"Do we really allow ourselves to draw close to the consuming nature of divine Lordship?  Or are we practicing self-deception, acting out spiritual intimacy while keeping Jesus at a safe distance?  How intimate is our relationship with Christ?" (38)  "This is the path to humility, to really love God, know God and be known by God." (41)


2.  Community

"At its best, Christian community is the body of Christ, living and active in the world." (51)


"I choose community because that's where I've found God.  Who we are cannot be separated from relationships.  We were made for relationships." (54)


"Non-poor Christians mistakenly come to view God's financial and material provision as individual blessing rather than kingdom resources." 


"Sobrino writes, 'The causes of sufferings in the [Majority World] are, to a great extent, to be found in the First World.  To admit this is a necessary condition for the First World to know itself truthfully.'" (58) [Would you agree, agree with qualifications, or disagree?  Why? dlm]


"The Western church, for the most part living in a 'Majestic Colony,' has mistaken God's financial blessings as individual provision rather than resources with potential for kingdom development." (67)


"The gospel clearly shows us the love and compassion that God has for the oppressed.  From the beginning to the end, the Bible is full of references to those in need and on the margins." (70)


"…it is my friends who are poor who have taught me the most about community." (71)


"In defining poverty, a portion of that definition should include poverty as 'the inability to change circumstance,' not the inability to help oneself." (73)


"Unless our communities among friends who are poor are founded in personal humility, there can be no fruit.  We must minister among and with the broken out of a posture of brokenness; it is the only way we will be accepted.  When we realize that we have as much to learn as we have to offer, true Christlike ministry will freely flow, community will develop, and we will be transformed." (74)


3. Simplicity

"Many of us think that our personal geographical context justifies our disengagement from the hurt and pain of the rest of the world."  "But those who go without the basic necessities of life, regardless of their geographical location or proximity, are nevertheless counted as part of our family."  "Their misery is our misery, their suffering is--or should be--our suffering." (81) 


"An unarguable Christian response to this reality is summed up well in a familiar challenge often ascribed to Gandhi: 'Live simply that others may simply live.'" (81)


"Simplicity is a hard one for me." (81)  "I often wonder what the thousands of books on my shelves say about my personal view of simplicity.  And that's only one example of many that I could share."   "Simplicity is hard." (82)


While living in India, "Simplicity quickly became a commitment to living a lifestyle that reflected respect for their circumstances, for their poverty." (83)


"Practically, simplicity has become my posture and intention to live free from the bondage and control of anything other than the embrace of God." (84)


"Too easily and too often, we spiritualize Western forms of capitalism and demonize socialism to justify over-consumption and unresponsiveness to the global demands of justice and equality.  We theologize material provision as 'God's blessing' while failing to recognize that perhaps the material provision placed in our trust may, in fact, be intended to advance God's kingdom or benefit someone else…." (88) 


"The generosity of friends who are poor confounds me, and it is consistent around the world." (89)  "There's something about the sorrow of poverty that creates a tremendous capacity for joy in the souls of those who suffer the most." (89)  "The poorest people I know are among the most generous, while many of the richest people I know seem to be stingy in comparison." (90)


"We want to make the issue about what we give, but in truth the issue is about what we keep." (93)


"It seems like, in our struggle to find our way to simplicity, lots of our 'stuff' gets in the way." (96)


"Simplicity in its essence demands neither a vow of poverty nor a life of rural homesteading."  "It requires neither a log cabin nor a hairshirt but a deliberate ordering of priorities so as to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous, useful and wasteful, beautiful and vulgar." (97, quoting David Shi in The Simple Life)


4. Submission

"Dogs are transparent to the core.  Vulnerability, by contrast, is an act of a dog's will.  A dog makes a cognitive progression from their baseline of transparency to baring themselves to another.  For me, being vulnerable is much more difficult than being transparent.  I have a hard time exposing the parts of me that can be wounded.  Sure, I can share my feelings with someone, but it's tough for me to trust people with my feelings.  It's not easy for me to put my needs out there and give someone a chance to reject them.  And so what I usually do is work toward transparency as a distraction from my lack of vulnerability."  (103) 


There's no submission in that.   Submission is giving up oneself to the power of another; transparency doesn't require submission because it sets the agenda of what I want to share."  "I've come to learn that becoming vulnerable is submitting to others the deeper parts of my life." (103)


"The truth is, no one really 'owns' their own life--every breath is a gift from God.  And once we become aware of this notion that our life is not our own, submitting our life to God is an obvious response.  Awareness of God's grace creates an opportunity to submit who we are, what we are and all that we might become to God." (116)


"When we don't submit our lives to God and our possessions to people in need, when we mistake our financial and material blessings as personal provision rather than as resources with potential for kingdom development--have we perpetuated an unjust imbalance between us and our neighbors?  Could it be that our deformed perceptions of power, our selfish tendencies to accumulate and hoard, cause many of the world's poor to go without their basic needs?  It seems to me that we are thieves when we hold onto those things that don't actually belong to us." (121)


5. Brokenness

Brokenness is different from woundedness.  Woundedness is the impact of the inevitable pains shared by humanity, the internalization of human pain and the way it plays out in our self-perceptions, relationships and human interaction.  Brokenness is different--a voluntary surrender to God's will over our own will.  Woundedness is reactive, largely determined by how we respond to difficult or painful things that happen.  Brokenness is open even to the grace in pain.  Brokenness is proactive."  "Being broken can be something that happens to us, but it can also be something we allow to happen in us, for in the broken areas of our lives Jesus can fill us with himself." (124)


"As we are exposed to the suffering of neighbors who are poor, our own spiritual poverty comes more clearly into view.  We are broken when we recognize our utmost need for God and leave everything behind to have our needs met in God.  It's really that simple." (129)


"God's brokenness creates wholeness.  God is breaking those things in us that are twisted and wrong, destructive and sinful.  Once broken, those things are then redeemed and restored to be used in their fullness for the glory of the kingdom of God." (130)


"Unless we have the courage to put our hands into the hurting places of Christ's body--the hurting places of the world--the world won't have reason to trust that God is good." (140)



"Independence still blinds me.  The entitled and selfish person inside me resists community.  But community has touched my eyes--sometimes even forcing them open to see God and his grace for me.  Affluence and excess tell lies about what I think I want and need.  A small and complex virtue, simplicity, gives me a glimpse past the giant things I don't really need so that I can find grace in Christ, my everything." (145)



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