"I’m deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life." – Henri Nouwen from In the Name of Jesus, p. 28-30 (bold type mine).
What do you think of this statement?
Henri Nouwen wrote these words after 20+ years of academic accolades at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard. He had been considered a modern success in religious and secular circles, selling out speaking engagements, leading training sessions, and selling books. But when he decided at the age of 50 to set aside the grandeur in order to devote the rest of his life to working with mentally handicapped, Nouwen discovered that all of his "achievements" in life mattered nothing. All that mattered to the "least of these" was whether Nouwen was someone who could love. He says that Christian leaders are tempted to be "relevant" when instead they should be confident in loving God and others… a very irrelevant way to live in our success-and-survival-driven world.
(The photos above, by the way, are from Johannesburg in December 2002 just a couple days after we adopted Benjamin. Might the irrelevancy of love actually be the most relevant practice of all?)