Monday, September 1, 2014

Overrated, by Eugene Cho

The subtitle of Eugene Cho's book Overrated: Are We More In Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? asks a compelling question.  Cho's answer: yes.  Cho writes that "we are more in love with the idea of compassion and justice than we are with actually putting it into practice" and that "we love compassion and justice . . . until there's a personal cost to living compassionately, loving mercy, and seeking justice."

Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, and founder of One Day's Wages, writes this as confession as much as a challenge to the rest of us.  As he and his family struggled with what justice and compassion mean for Christians, they decided to give away a year's salary.  I don't know that there are many of us who would be able to pull that off, but he did.  His mission: to demonstrate a "lifestyle of enough.  We have enough.  We are blessed and blessed immensely.  God has given us enough.  God is our enough."    

With the resources, information, and communication we have, Cho calls us the "most overrated generation in human history."  Looking at Facebook posts and social media, someone might think that we are radically committed to a wide variety of causes, but we are rarely willing to make sacrifices and really make a difference.  "People who demonstrate support for causes and organizations on social media, such as Facebook, actually do less in real life."

I especially liked two of Cho's emphases.  First of all, changing the world and seeking justice must start with prayer and contemplation.  Just as Jesus took time to get away for prayer and to spend time with his Father, so must we.  Cho puts it bluntly: "Shut up, listen, and pray."  Second, when we do take action, it should be done with the right preparation and information.  Remember that "having a good heart is not enough."  It's not about our heart and what makes us feel good, but about the lives of others in need.  In this vein, he openly questions the effectiveness of short-term mission trips.  The money and time resources used for these trips are often wasted.  "Spending more money to visit in person and see the work than you are investing in the work is ludicrous."  At the same time, he does allow that "the value in international travel and 'vision trips' remains."

Cho gives readers an honest, personal challenge to be thoughtful and deliberate about their giving and actions in the name of justice.  The bottom line is that it's not up to us to change the world.  Rather, "God called us into this journey not just to 'change the world' but more so to change us." It's a reminder that we could all heed.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complementary electronic review copy!

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