God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:27-30, NIV)
When I was a kid I met N.R. Smith, a pastor/college instructor. He had no names, just initials. He told me that when he applied for college, his application was returned with a note reading, “Please give full name, not merely initials.” So he filled out the name portion like this: “N(only) R(only).”
A few weeks later he received his admissions letter, addressed to “Nonely Ronely Smith.
I later attended that college, and his son was one of my classmates. When freshman students asked him, “What does ‘N.R.’ stand for?” he would just shrug and answer, “Nothing, Really.”
N.R. had initials- that’s it. His whole name was an abbreviation. They meant something to his parents, but they’re lost on us. That sounds crazy, but the name worked. At least, the university that awarded his PhD thought so. I’ve seen the diploma.
I’ve spent most of my life in or around church or non-profit organizations, and I’ve got to admit, most of the time, people have no idea how they work- or why. I’ve recently read some of Habitat for Humanity’s early history. I found people referring to HFH’s efforts as “this crazy idea that works.” Why does the crazy idea- of building homes with volunteers- work? What do the affiliates that succeed do to MAKE it work?
It has to do with being, not doing.
One of our affiliate leaders said, “God is our center, not our border.” We have to be careful not to get those mixed up. We want broad outreach- everyone is welcome to help, to apply for a home, to contribute, to help us reach our goal: building low-cost houses with volunteers so low-income families can purchase a home. But the center, the launching pad, the primary motivation is manifesting the love of our Lord. “The love of Christ compels us,” as a tent-making apostle explained (2 Corinthians 5:14).
It’s nothing, really, except that it’s EVERYTHING.
Building homes is our calling, not our center. His love compels us to be people of good will, sacrificial service, vision for new life in our communities and non-stop advocacy for affordable housing.
We aren’t going to drop the “Jesus thing” in order to get more homes built. He determines our direction. To quote seventies singer Jim Croce, “If you’re going my way, I’ll go with you” (“I Got a Name”).
What make this crazy idea work?
Nothing, really. Just a feeding trough. Just a couple of timbers. Just an empty grave. Just prayer.