Dan Coyne donated a kidney to a virtual stranger! Myra was his favorite clerk at a local grocery store, but he knew nothing about her, not even her last name. Nevertheless, when he learned she was seriously ill and in need of a kidney donor, he had himself tested. When it turned out that he was a match, Dan and his family surprised Myra at her home to share the good news and celebrate with her.
Dan’s story was covered by a broad swath of the national media ranging from ABC News to The Huffington Post. In every instance, he was acclaimed as a wonderful American and a hero. Men’s Health Magazine recounted his story to launch an article on why some guys are so generous and sacrificial. Psychologists speculated about the emotional rush some people derive from helping others. A researcher suggested that one region of the brain, the amygdala, seems to be larger in people who tend towards generosity. So much speculation and yet nobody bothered to ask Dan.
I suspected immediately that Dan is a believer. So as I often do, I ran through an extensive Google search to find out. Sure enough, I finally unearthed a local story in which Dan confessed, “My faith is the reason I did it.” He is an active member of the Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois. The size of his amygdala is still in question.
Sometimes we worry that our secular world hates Christians. The evidence suggests that’s not really true. Our unbelieving neighbors actually admire the kinds of sacrifices followers of Christ often make for others. They cover them in magazine articles and news stories. They celebrate amazing heroism and willingness to risk something. But they consistently omit one central fact: the hero did it in the name of Jesus. I know this because I enjoy using amazing but true stories in sermons and blogs, so I constantly do research to check validity and learn the rest of the story. Only a week ago I investigated another moving, high-profile story about a woman who pleaded for mercy for the young man whose irresponsibility led to a near fatal automobile crash, and years of surgery and recovery for her. National coverage entirely overlooked her explanation to a local newspaper: she had been inspired by the Beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
Don’t miss the point here. We get a lot of push-back suggesting that secular Americans are offended by our faith. In fact, they love to read about the amazing things Christians do for others. They aren’t offended at all; they are frightened. The reason so many Americans don’t want to hear us mention the name of Jesus is because they are afraid we are right!
In liberated, 21st Century America, the claims of Christ sound like a threat to absolute individual liberty. The spirit of the age says “Go ahead and give in: do what you want and be whom you feel like being.There is no right and wrong.” The Gospel says there is a higher way that is best because it leads to life. All the other roads lead to judgment and death. Christ calls us to walk away from our shallow, self-absorption and trust God for life’s ultimate rewards!
So Americans are inspired by the things we do, but they don’t want to talk about the reason why we do those things. They’d rather research remote parts of the brain or offer up personal conjecture than simply ask “What gives?” We would reply, “I did it because I love Jesus.” And they would have to deal with a painful possibility: what if we’re right?
Do hard things! And lift up the cross.