Thursday, July 28, 2011
John Stott: Gone
John Stott died yesterday. He was 90 years old and had some years ago made the choice to retire completely from public life. (That is merely one evidence of his unusual wisdom and humility) His writing and life has influenced mine, like it has thousands of others. It wasn’t just the clarity of his exegetical Bible teaching, it was his example and pure delight in loving and caring for God’s creation. I’m sure there are already dozens, perhaps hundreds of memorials and obituaries going up for him and I don’t pretend to add anything profound. Only want to say I’m sad he is gone, but thankful for a life that served God and others so fully to the very end.
I remember when I was first introduced to his book Basic Christianity through Intervarsity when I was a student. I wasn’t interested in reading it because the title insulted me and so did the young man who suggested I read it. Who was John Stott, anyway? Basic Christianity?! As though having been raised in a Christian home and a pietistic church did not mean I had not committed more Scripture to memory than this young man had ever read?! Pish.
Then one day I picked it up and began to read and the claims of Christ became so radical and so living, it was like I’d never heard the Gospel. For one of the things John Stott insisted upon, was that unless we struggle to build bridges built between what the Bible says and the modern world, through having listened to and understanding the modern world, then all our religiosity, all our sermons and piety makes Christianity irrelevant to those who don’t believe. He claimed that our task is to demonstrate Christ’s relevance to the world through our lives.
Until then no one ever described Christ in a way that seduced me through love. He began a new way for me to think and live.
“There is in him no trace of the crank. He believes ardently in what he teaches, but he is no fanatic. His doctrine is unpopular, but he is not eccentric. There is as much evidence for his humanity as for his divinity. He gets tired. He needs to sleep and eat and drink like other men. He experiences the human emotions of love and anger, joy and sorrow. He is fully human, but He is no mere man.
“Above all, He was unselfish. Nothing is more striking than this. Believing himself to be divine, yet he did not put on airs or stand on his dignity. He was never pompous as men tend to be who think themselves greater than they are. There was no touch of self-importance about Jesus. He was humble. It is this paradox which is so baffling, the self-centeredness of his teaching and the unself-centeredness of his behavour. He combined in himself the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He knew himself to be the Lord of all, but he became the servant of all. … The essence of love is self-sacrifice. The worst of men is adorned by an occasional flash of such nobility, but the life of Jesus irradiated it with a never-fading incandescent glow. The conclusion of the matter is this: Jesus was sinless because he was selfless. Such selflessness is love. And God is love.”