Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Thursday, July 28, 2011

John Stott 1921-2011: Remembering a Radical Disciple

Yesterday morning, the mail brought Rev. John Stott’s final book, “The Radical Disciple.”  Within hours, Barbara brought me the news that Stott was dead.

J.R.W. Stott, disciple of Christ
Not everyone knows Stott.  The more secular readers of the CR, and others of you who follow other religions, might not have heard of him.   But many years ago, when I was a high school boy, two Christian writers stood as pillars of guidance for young people exploring the gospel. Of course, there was C.S. Lewis with “Mere Christianity” and dozens of other works.  But next in line was John Stott, rector of All Souls Church in London, whose “Basic Christianity” became the authority for living in relationship with God.

Forty years later “The Radical Disciple” arrived at my door (see it here).  Writing by hand at age 88 in 2009, and keenly aware of the shortness of time to give us his final, parting guidance, Stott said this:

“Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective; choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority.”

And what are those costly areas of life that Stott insists that we bring under the authority of Christ? He mentions eight. But principal among them is “the care of our created environment.”  Care for creation.

Among the core issues of creation care, Stott puts human-caused climate change as the most important.  “Of all the global threats that face our planet,” he writes, “this is the most serious.”

How can Christians ignore the perils of environmental degradation, and even resist those who labor to protect the earth?  Stott confesses that he doesn’t know. Citing a younger writer, he says:

“It seems quite inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God, to be disciples of Jesus, and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership. They do not care about the abuse of the earth and indeed, by their wasteful and over-consumptive lifestyles, they contribute to it.”

Well, Dr. Stott, we share your bewilderment.  But today, we honor the memory of your life, and the ways you have enriched and guided us.  We thank God for lending you to us all these years.  And we rededicate ourselves to the call to discipleship so close to your heart.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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