A Review of “Faith Works” by Jim Wallis

What would it take to make this world a better place? Is there any hope left for real and lasting positive change? Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us have a deep rooted desire to be great. We all have a passion hidden within us to make and be a revolution. Can one person change the world? Yes, in fact, it is the only way it has ever been done. Is anyone tired of the way things are; the status quo? Does the apathetic, uncaring, unhelpful, unsupportive, unbelieving, non-acknowledging, ambivalent environment stir any amount of righteous anger or sadness within you? There is hope, listen closely: go, learn, be.

In Jim Wallis’ book, Faith Works, the greatest theme is change. That change can be divided in to three sub themes; go, learn and be. “Go” involves chapters one through four; Trust Your Questions, Get Out of the House More Often, Use Your Gift and Do the Work and You’ll Find the Spirit (Wallis, 2001). “Go” reminds us of Jesus and his soon to be disciples, Peter and his brother Andrew. When Jesus met them he said “come, follow me. And I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20) Peter and Andrew got up at once and went with Jesus. Soon after, Jesus came upon James and John. They were in a boat with their father and Jesus called them. “And immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:21-22) These guys did not know a thing about the journey they were going to be on or the man that would take them on it. They just got up and went; Peter, Andrew, James and John understood “go.”

“Learn” portrays chapters five through eleven; Recognize the Three Faces of Poverty, Listen to Those Closest to the Problem, Get to the Heart of the Matter, Throw Away Old Labels-Its Values That Count, Find New Allies and Search for Common Ground, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize and Tap the Power of Faith Communities (Wallis, 2001). Jesus came and provided spiritual riches to the spiritually poor. He hung around with those closest to the problem; he spent his time with the sick, poor, lost, tax collectors, prostitutes and murderers. He listened to them, healed them and encouraged them to “go” on without sin and be made new. Jesus was always about the heart of the matter and that was, the Kingdom of God. He lived against the labels and rebuked the Pharisees. He gained new allies daily and grew in influence through love, acceptance and forgiveness. His eyes were always on the prize; that was, fulfilling the calling that God had for him. All the while his disciples were learning; learning, learning, learning. Finally, Jesus tapped the power of his faith community. He taught them all that they needed to know and sent them on their way to “be.”

“Be” captures the essence of chapters twelve through sixteen; Be a Peacemaker, Be a Contemplative, Keep it Human, Have a Dream and Change the Wind (Wallis, 2001). Jesus was the greatest peacemaker of all time. After all, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Jesus was also the greatest contemplative. He fully understood the need for solitude, community and ministry. Solitude was needed for rest, reflection and growth in relationship with God. Community was needed to share and recognize together with others the truth and presence of God. Ministry was needed to proclaim that truth and presence so deeply found in solitude and community. His disciples learned these truths like the rest of us do daily. Jesus kept it human. He understood that being human meant he needed others, and they needed him. He would be tempted and tried. He would be made happy, sad, angry, nervous and hurt as all humans do. The disciples were just as human as Jesus was but notice the difference between them. Jesus had a dream and lived that dream out so perfectly that his human life was incomparable to any other. His disciples soon believed and lived out Jesus’ dream so much so that they too transcended the average, mediocre life; they embraced their new selves in Christ and began to change the wind. They changed the wind by dying to themselves and taking up their crosses daily. They changed the wind by living out the dream of Jesus and changed the whole world by first changing themselves.

Change; these sub themes go, learn and be are what is required to change ourselves. Ghandi said: “you must be the change you wish to see in the world” (Quote DB). If we desire to change the world we must first change ourselves. There is a great quote inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby who died around 1100 A.D. It truly depicts the reality of change progress and the betterment of the world by means of changing and bettering oneself first.

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world” (Creating Change).

This Anglican Bishop finally understood that in order for things to change we must change ourselves first. We can’t change others; only ourselves. However, when we change, it changes everything.

Often “going” is the hardest step but when that first step is taken it is always a downhill ride to “learning.” Learning and growing are wonderful things to do and they often bring surprise and adventure. At other times they will bring disappointment and frustration but, at that point we always push on to learn and grow even more. The trickiest part of this cycle is “being.” When have we learned enough? Will we ever learn enough? What does having new knowledge and wisdom now mean for our responsibility to “be?” The worst trap to fall in to is to continue learning and learning but never using that knowledge and wisdom to make a difference in the world. One who has gained understanding and wisdom must use it, share it and change the world with it by disciplining ourselves to change. If anyone has difficulty “being” or does not fully understand what it means to really “be” then listen up.

Evil will always be present in this world but, that evil is only victorious when good men and women do nothing. Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Take personal responsibility; take ownership. We should never allow ourselves to think “it’s not my job or responsibility.” We should never believe “I am just one person, what can I do?” We do not need everyone’s co-operation or anyone’s permission to take a stand and make a change. The most beautiful part about being the change we want to see in the world is that we do not have to be like the political leaders of the world. We do not have to be loud. We do not have to be eloquent. We do not have to be elected. We do not even have to be particularly smart or well educated. We do however, have to be committed. We must be fully committed to our moral values and the change we desire to be and bring to being in our family, community, nation or world. Our commitment is of utter most importance. Everything we do, every step we take, every sentence we write, and every word we speak-or do not speak-counts. Nothing is trivial. The world may be big, but there is no small thing. Everything matters.

Do not get too caught up in the “how” of things. If we are clear on what we want to change and why we want to change it, the how will come. We should never wait for things to be in order before we begin. Change is always a bit messy and there is never a better time for it than “now.” Understand that things will never be just right or in order. Teddy Roosevelt had a wise thing to say on this matter. He said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” (Moncur, 2007). Everyone and everything would benefit if we really took that advice. Individuals, communities, states, nations and the world as a whole would be a much more beautiful place if each person did what they could, with what they have, where they are. Just think how much good as has been done by those who have really chosen to live up to that responsibility. Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., the Apostles, and our very own community leaders have heard the calling and have fulfilled their responsibility to do what they can, with hat they have, where they are. The impact these few people have made on the world is outstanding and immeasurable. It is as it was nearly 2000 years ago: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Let us be “workers;” we must fulfill our calling and responsibility.

Always remember what Timothy Virkkala said, “What a person believes is not as important as how a person believes” (iWise, 2009). We must remember that we are sons and daughters of God. Above any and all causes or purposes lies the cause and purpose of Christ. We are each uniquely and specifically created. We each are called to a higher life, duty and fulfillment. How we live our life here on earth is very important. The lost, hurting, dying, people of this world need us. They need us to be the people we are called to be. They need us to be real Christians; salt and light. The Kingdom of Heaven is our dream, goal and hope; it is our alternate reality. We must bring it here to earth. We do this to the glory of God by changing ourselves. Put aside the old self and live anew. There is a better family waiting for us. There is a better community waiting for us; a better country and world. We just have to “be;” be a reflection and personal representative of Christ. Be the change and remember, nothing is trivial.

Creating Change. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2010, from Support 4 Change: http://www.support4change.com/change-intro.html

Moncur, M. (2007). The Quotations Page. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from The Quotations Page: http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/34534.html

Quote DB. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2010, from Quote DB: http://www.quotedb.com/quotes/2050

Wallis, J. (2001). Faith Works. Random House Trade Publishing.

Wisdom On-Demand. (2009). Retrieved April 16, 2010, from iWise: http://www.iwise.com/aBdBW

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