Jesus’ Economy

I Demand Christian Hope of 2017

From Haiti to Aleppo, 2016 was marked by tragedy. For my family, 2016 also brought grief on the home front. We said goodbye to a grandfather who passed away. We also said goodbye to our house and former career, as we embarked on a new ministry that is far more trying than expected. After selling nearly all of our stuff to follow Jesus, we were forced to adjust to a new reality—on every account. But I’m not content to leave it there—in the pain. I demand hope of 2017. I demand the kind of hope only Christ can bring. Here’s why I think you should do the same.

From Pain Comes Resurrection

A reflection on 2016 cannot be complete without looking at it from the perspective of Christmas. The celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the arrival of the Son of God equals unfathomable hope. The hope of Christ changes everything.

The life of Jesus is a reminder that suffering is a part of life and that God can use it to accomplish his purposes. Prophesying about the Christ, over 500 years before his arrival, Isaiah 53:10 says it this way:

“Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [his servant]; he afflicted [his servant]. If [Zion] makes [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, he will see offspring, he will prolong days and the will of Yahweh, in his hand, will succeed.”

From the pain of Yahweh’s servant comes resurrection. Yahweh’s servant is made a guilt offering by Zion, who is symbolic of the people of Israel. The servant dies. And then he rises again: he sees offspring and he prolongs days—things that only happen in life. The servant’s suffering is not the end; it is a beginning.

It is the resurrection of Yahweh’s servant that leads to our new life. Isaiah 53:11 continues the passage with this statement:

“From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities.”

The suffering servant of Yahweh—Jesus the Christ, the Son of God—bears our iniquities. It is Jesus who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 53 in his suffering, death, and resurrection. He makes many righteous by his suffering and death (compare Romans 8:18–39). Paul the apostle puts it this way:

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [Christ!] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:34–35 ESV).

Ask God to Use 2016’s Pain

For my wife and I, 2016 meant leaving a great job and going full-time—as volunteers—for the non-profit Jesus’ Economy. We had many hopes about this journey, believing that we would see radical giving that would support us. But so far, it hasn’t turned out that way. It’s been difficult and often disheartening. We also faced the loss of a wonderful man, Kalene’s grandfather—who we greatly miss. Yet I know that dwelling on pain does not get us any closer to healing or move forward God’s ministry. Instead, we must ask, “What is God doing through this? Where is he working, so that we may follow him?”

Reflecting on that question I see that through our work, God is creating jobs for the impoverished through our Fair Trade Shop. God is also planting churches in regions where people have never heard the name of Jesus. Furthermore, people are gaining access to clean water. Is that worth the sacrifice? Absolutely.

And while 2016 involved saying goodbye to Grandpa, we can take solace in the fact that our prayers for healing were answered, in a way. Grandpa John no longer feels pain; he is healed in heaven and with the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:1–10). And one day, we will see Grandpa John again—we didn’t truly say goodbye, but rather “farewell for now.” And one day, we will all have resurrected bodies (Revelation 20:11–15; 1 Corinthians 15:12–58).

The Power of a Resurrected Perspective

A truly Christian theology requires us to look at 2016 through the perspective of resurrection. I must ask God to raise all of 2016 up—to redeem it and give it new life. I must also acknowledge that the grief of 2016—the sleepless nights, the feelings of anxiety, the mourning, all of it—were used by God to draw me closer to him. Thanks to 2016’s journey, I know God better than I ever have and there is nothing worth more than that.

Furthermore, God will have the final say over pain:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39 ESV).

In light of Jesus, I demand hope from 2017. I can see how God used 2016 for good, and so I believe in resurrected hope for 2017. I believe in resurrected hope for you and me. 

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Tough Love Jonah's Way: A Godly Christmas Present

I’m intimately acquainted with tough love. Anyone who has worked with me has received tough love; anyone I have worked for has been required to offer it. My wife knows that tough love is the only way to really get through to me. There is a sixth love language everyone and it’s called “tough.”

One of the central themes of the book of Jonah is tough love. Jonah doesn't understand the love God offers Jonah’s enemies. And God loves Jonah, despite Jonah not knowing how to love his enemies or his God. Love is written all over the book. Yet, love as a verb—or even as a noun—is absent from this little book among the Minor Prophets.

Love in the book of Jonah is like Santa at Christmas. Everyone knows what he represents—he doesn’t have to say anything at all. He can feel like a cliché fat man in a suit, but he can also warm your heart—especially when Michael Buble sings about him.

The key to seeing the love in Jonah is first to read it closely, second to really understand it’s genre and context, and third to realize what’s not there. What is absent in this book?


Jonah is foremost poetic narrative. It’s narrative full or irony, parallels, and absurdities. As readers of Jonah, we often interpret it like historical narrative without acknowledging the creativity of the narrator. This does not mean that the book of Jonah is fiction, but it’s narrative is certainly creative.

You could think of Jonah as a dark comedy; it’s meant to illustrate points of truth through strange scenes. A part of your brain when reading Jonah should be saying, “Not computing.” And it’s those points you should especially pay attention to. In this regard, the book of Jonah can be read through a “top 5 worst” events lists: #1) The worst prophet gets a message and runs; #2) The worst boat ride ever; #3) The worst prayer ever delivered from the belly of a fish; #4) The worst sermon ever delivered; and #5) The worst response to God.

In this top 5 worst events list, we also see five deeply profound ideas about love.


The book of Jonah opens with a bang, dropping you straight into an ongoing story.

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord” (>Jonah 1:1–3 NIV).

In the time of Jonah, Nineveh was one of the four major metropolis cities of Assyria. Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (who reigned circa 786–746 BC; this is according to 2 Kings 14:25). If you were any other nation at this time, you would have hated Assyria—they were known for their cruelty in warfare. And the patron deity of Nineveh itself, where God called Jonah to go, was a goddess of love and war.

Rather than go to enemy territory, Jonah heads to Israel’s ally, in Phoenicia—probably aboard a Phoenician ship. Jonah could have stayed where he was, but instead makes a conscious decision to go to the opposite side of the known world. So why does he leave? It’s unclear exactly why, but it could be rooted in him not understanding that Yahweh is a God of the entire world, not just Israel. Yahweh is not limited to geography like the other gods worshipped in the ancient Near East. Jonah is running away from his responsibilities. He is a prophet on the run.

God desired Jonah to preach a message of tough love to Assyria. And the fact that he is sent to preach at all shows God’s love: God is giving them a chance to change their ways.

Love, then, is a powerful answer to hate and violence—in both the ancient Near East and today. God loved Nineveh, despite Nineveh's evil. And we will find out in this narrative that love is also the answer to the hate in Jonah’s heart.


Once at sea, a storm hits Jonah’s boat and everyone panics (>Jonah 1:4–5). This is a surprise, since Jonah is likely on a Phoenician ship—and the Phoenicians were known for their seamanship. Jonah’s trip to Spain—which is where he is heading—is not going so well for him or for others. This storm is deeply frightening.

Through a little divination by casting lots, the sailors determine that Jonah is responsible. And after a bit of dialog and the sailors trying to make land once more, they toss him in the sea (>Jonah 1:6–16).

Is there a message of love here? Perhaps, God could have destroyed the boat, killing Jonah and all the men aboard. But he doesn’t. There is mercy—the sea calms after Jonah hits the water and a great fish is sent to swallow Jonah (>Jonah 1:15–17).

We know this to be the case because the narrator makes it clear: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). In parallel, Jonah 4:6–8 likewise emphasizes God’s providence—making this a recurring theme throughout the book. God mercifully saves, despite the actions of Jonah. But he also does not hesitate to change the circumstances to accomplish his purposes. This is tough love.


Once in the belly of the great fish, Jonah offers a prayer of thanksgiving (Jonah 2).

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2 NIV).

Statements like these are common in Thanksgiving psalms (compare Psalm 18:6). This is odd because Jonah is still in the belly of the fish—he hasn’t been delivered from the realm of the dead yet.

From a genre standpoint, Jonah’s prayer sounds familiar. There are many parallel prayers in other passages. Thanksgiving prayers were common in Israel—many of them are recorded in the book of Psalms and the Dead Sea Scrolls uncovered additional documents based in the Thanksgiving genre.

Jonah’s thanksgiving could be genuine and show his faith. He could be genuinely grateful and believe that God will do all the things that he says in his prayer. He could believe in his full deliverance so much that he is proclaiming it like it already has happened.

Or Jonah could be simply following the religious customs of his time without any personal change of heart. This view is rooted in what’s missing here: an admission of guilt or sin and repentance. Jonah is praising God for his rescue through thanksgiving, but he is not admitting why he ended up in the belly of the fish to begin with. Furthermore, Jonah is saying he will return to the temple, not go to Nineveh (Jonah 2:4, 7). He even makes a vow in his prayer, but what vow is he referencing (Jonah 2:9)? He has made God no guarantees that he will obey and go to Nineveh.

Yet, God again shows Jonah love. Despite Jonah’s contriteness, God shows him love by preserving his life and taking him back to dry land (Jonah 2:10).


Upon dry land, God sends word to Jonah again: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (Jonah 3:2 NIV).

Jonah then delivers what could be described as the worst prophetic sermon ever: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4 NIV). What? That’s it. Imagine saying to a congregation, “Forty days and you’re going to be overthrown” and then just walking off stage. There is nothing here about Yahweh at all.

Jonah’s message here is ambiguous. The word often translated as “overthrown” or “destroyed” can also be translated as “changed” or “turned.” If the people repent, they will be changed. If the people don’t repent, their city will be destroyed.

Amazingly, the people repent and begin to fast—and the king gets on board and commands this be done (Jonah 3:5–9).

Jonah’s message of repentance to Nineveh was simple and it worked—despite Jonah's faults. Love is seen in how God uses it to turn the hearts of the people.

Love is also seen in God’s great mercy against the violent people of Assyria: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10 NIV).


Jonah can’t tolerate this response from God. Despite all the mercy he has personally received, he cannot imagine a world where God loves the people of Nineveh.

“[Jonah] prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:2–3 NIV).

Now that he is alive, out of the belly of the fish, Jonah demands to die. He is probably being sarcastic, but it’s still clear that he does not understand the God he serves (Jonah 4:1–3).

When those who once hated Jonah are filled with love for his God, he does not respond with love himself. Instead, he wishes they were dead.

I love God’s response: “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4 NIV). He questions Jonah’s very ethics. Jonah feels righteous, but God essentially asks him, “Really—are you sure about your position?”

In this region, it could have easily been 120 degrees, so Jonah builds a shelter and God helps by sending Jonah a plant to shade his head (Jonah 4:5–6). But a worm comes along and eats the plant, at the command of God—there is a metaphor here (Jonah 4:7–8). The point of the metaphor: Why be disappointed about things you have no control over—especially for that which you did not earn?

Jonah required more convincing than Nineveh. Thus, God loves him the tough way.

But Jonah is tough too—he still demands to die. God responds gently, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” (Jonah 4:9).

But this doesn’t change Jonah’s mind. So God has to explain it:

“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10–11 NIV).

Jonah is exclusive about his love. It belongs to his people, from his God, for those whom he loves.

Jesus directly commented on this problem, saying:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:32–36 NIV).

And that is the end of the article. Is there anything more to say than that?

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Faith as Beautiful as Fireworks: Calling, Atheism, and Oxford

by Ryan Pemberton

Cole, Jen, and I attended a fireworks display in Oxford’s South Parks one Saturday night in November. He told us it was to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, a British holiday neither of us were familiar with.

In something of an informal history lesson, Cole told us that Guy Fawkes was a man who made plans to blow up parliament a few hundred years ago, and how he was discovered and thwarted at the last minute. He told us the British still celebrate catching Guy Fawkes to this day by lighting giant wooden effigies of him on fire each year, all around the country. They top the whole thing off with a fireworks display.

It was dark when we made it to the park, along with hundreds of other people, all funneling through a small iron gate. The ground was covered in straw and the park was filled with the sweet, salty smell of fried food as carnival rides lit up the night sky with neon bulbs and children’s laughter. It felt like we had walked into a county fair.

We settled on hot pork sandwiches for dinner and found a spot in the crowd to enjoy the show. The air was cold and steam rose upward, pouring out from our sandwiches. It wasn’t long before the fireworks began. The crowd was gathered together tightly. Everyone’s heads were craned upward, taking in the show.

I looked over at Cole about halfway through the fireworks and asked him how much he’d give me to start singing, “God Bless America.” He laughed, and he told me he’d give me a pat on the back. I decided against it, figuring I didn’t need an effigy in my honor.

The fireworks really were beautiful, though. And I found myself remembering something I had read a few days before, a quote from a British journalist named Matthew Parris, a professed atheist.

"The New Testament offers a picture of a God who does not sound at all vague to me. He has sent his son to Earth. He has distinct plans both for his son and for mankind. He knows each of us personally and can communicate directly with us. We are capable of forming a direct relationship, individually with him, and are commanded to try. We are told this can be done only through his son. And we are offered the prospect of eternal life—an afterlife of happy, blissful, or glorious circumstances....

Friends, if I believe that, or even a tenth of that... I would drop my job, sell my house, throw away my possessions, leave my acquaintances and set out into the world burning with the desire to know more and, when I had found out more, to act upon it and tell others" (Matthew Parris, originally published in The TImes).

As I watched the fireworks light up the black canopy overhead with bright whites and blues and reds and oranges, I found myself thinking about the kind of Christianity the atheist Matthew Parris had described. Watching the fireworks explode in a bouquet of colors, I thought how beautiful that kind of Christian faith would be. Like fireworks, it would stand out. I think it would be so captivating that people would stop to take it in when they heard about it. When they had seen it for themselves, I think they’d tell their friends. And, as they closed their eyes to go to bed at night, I think the scene would play again before the darks of their eyelids. They’d fall asleep with a smile on their face, thinking about how beautiful it was. Just like fireworks.

Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back AgainThis pre-released excerpt is from the memoir Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back Again by Jesus' Economy board member Ryan J. Pemberton. You can preorder Called here.

A volunteer board member of Jesus Economy, Ryan Pemberton is a graduate of Oxford, Duke Divinity School, and is the past President of the Oxford University C.S. Lewis Society. A communications consultant, Ryan has authored two books, including the forthcoming memoir, Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis's House and Back Again.

Authentic Empathy and the Good Samaritan: Consider Jesus' View

What type of love will our lives show? Can our love move beyond our own perspectives to empathizing with the lives of others? Are we able to empathize with the difficulties of our brothers and sisters—with our local, national, and global neighbors? At the core of Jesus’ message are these questions.

The idea of a Christian who stands stagnant is an oxymoron. I don’t believe I am the first to say that, but it’s worth echoing whoever said it before me. We must move with God. We must seek justice and mercy. We must walk humbly before God, in peace (Micah 6:8). We must say the difficult and act according to our beliefs.

Jesus moves us—both spiritually and physically. If the Holy Spirit is at work in you, he will move you. As we draw closer to Thanksgiving—and with so much tragedy present in our nation and world—I wonder if we are ready to be thankful. Stop and think about it for a moment: Have you turned your thoughts toward gratitude lately—towards a God who is with us, no matter what?

Gratitude teaches us to love. When I stand before God in prayer, I realize that I am not capable of defending myself before him—that I desperately am in need of Jesus. And by nature of admitting that, I am reminding myself that my neighbor and I are the same in many regards. We are all extremely impoverished spiritually. We all need to be filled by the living God.

We have an opportunity now, even in the midst of tragedies being played out nationally and globally, to draw closer together. When we recognize the image of God in one another, we see what God sees in each of us.

I think of Jesus and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27–31). You’ve probably heard this story dozens of times—even in our biblically illiterate culture, it’s an idiom: “Way to be a good Samaritan!” people say. But I’m betting that you’re about to see something about this story that you’ve never seen before.

This whole scene opens with a question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The scene also ultimately evokes the idea of “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells this story to answer these two questions.

And here in the middle of the Good Samaritan parable is a man dying, being left for dead. There is real-life at stake. (We say we know God, yet we're okay with leaving the man on the side of the road.) And the point is obvious: a person who lives like the two men that walked by don't know God at all—and they don't recognize their real neighbor for that matter. Being a Christian requires authentic love, even for those we don't know. It requires that we mourn with them and care for them.

The "upstanding citizens" in the story of the Good Samaritan, though highly regarded in their society, ignore the commandment to love their neighbor, but the Samaritan doesn’t. The Samaritan, who Jesus’ first-century Jewish audience likely would have despised, sees this beaten man on the side of the road and not only takes care of him—he goes above and beyond to be sure that the man is cared for.

This story begs the question: Who is your Samaritan? Who do you put on the outside? Who do you fail to empathize with? (My dear white friends: How often do you judge a situation you really can’t ever understand?)

You see, I can never understand what it is like to be a Samaritan, so how can I act like I do? I can never understand my neighbor fully, so that means that the first step to loving him is recognizing that I haven’t walked in his shoes.

Jesus crosses all boundaries to show God’s love, and we should do the same. The world needs Jesus. Will we show Jesus to the world?

If we truly know Jesus, he will change us. Jesus transforms us. Jesus changes everything. Jesus shows us what it means to love our neighbor.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

The Incredible Power of Peace

“There are two ways to look at other people: you are making war with them or making peace with them.”

This remark from a friend of mine has radically transformed the way I approach relationships. It's not my job to win an argument; it's my job to make peace. It is the job of all Christians to make peace. When we approach relationships this way, everything changes.

Jesus once remarked:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (>Matthew 5:9 LEB).

For Jesus, being a peacemaker was a mark of knowing God.

When people have the resources they need, they are able to have peace in their lives. When we create a job we are giving someone the financial sustainability they need and thus bringing about a type of peace.

When people have peace in their lives, they are more inclined to make peace with others. When a person moves from living day to day, fighting for survival, to sustainability, they see the full value and potential in maintaining that. Being at peace with others is one way that is maintained.

Helping someone starts a cycle. When we are helped by others, we naturally want to help others. If the helping is done right, holistic life transformation is at the end of this cycle and peace is a natural result.

In addition, when we bring order to someone’s life, they’re naturally interested in the source of the order—which is God’s work through us. (Even the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, finds its primary meaning in a sense of wholeness or completeness.) Thus, when a person finds order—through a sustainable job or having their basic needs met—they are much closer to finding Jesus than previously. This is especially the case when needs are met by an organization who promotes Jesus.

When we bring holistic transformation to a community, or even just jobs to a community, we are moving people closer to peace. And in moving them closer to peace, we are moving them closer to Jesus.

There is incredible power in peace—and in viewing every relationship as one that should be fueled by peace. 

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Security and Searching for the Messiah

When any storm comes our way in life, we tend to have one of two responses: Grabbing hold of truisms that comfort us or determining that God has abandoned us. For some, there is a third alternative: pure despair, as they realize their belief system has no answer outside of self-reliance.

When the storms of life come our way, we look for salvation. But what if we’re looking for the wrong thing?


In a society plagued by food scarcity and security issues, self-reliance offers no hope. A lack of access to basic necessities leads people to look beyond themselves for answers. This is why the book of James says:

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5 NIV).

The poor often understand something the wealthy do not: They cannot save themselves. This is why so many impoverished people were drawn to Jesus, while the rich generally turned away or persecuted him.

But while poverty may draw someone near to God, it is also against the heart of God. God wants a full and healthy life for all. Poverty can also create a different type of faith crisis. Faith can become reliant on what God provides rather than on who he is. We see this with the Israelites in the wilderness: When God did not provide for their needs in the way they desired, they lose faith (see the book of Numbers).

Belief in God must transcend even our most basic needs, our desires, and even our prayers of desperation. We must seek something deeper that will withstand our health fading, our loved ones being lost, and even our countries failing us.

When everything is stripped away, what will we believe? Or perhaps the better question is: What are we truly seeking now? Is it what God can give us or is it authentic relationship with God? A look back in time, to Jesus’ day and sayings, offers us a glimpse into how we should navigate the storms of life.


Jesus lived in a primarily agrarian society. Politics preyed on the poor and weak. The wealthy gained further riches off the backs of the poor. The people felt insecure as the ruling powers had their own interests in mind, not the security of those they governed. The situation in first-century Judaea and Galilee was very similar to many places in the global East and Southeast today.

It is in this context that Jesus miraculously fed about 8,000 people: 5,000 men and an additional 1,000 to 3,000 women and children. What’s extraordinary is that all four gospels record this story (>Matthew 14:13–21; >Mark 6:32–44; >Luke 9:10–17; >John 6:1–15). This is a rare occurrence when it comes to the gospels. It’s a little surprising to find a particular teaching or miracle of Jesus in three gospels, but four is very rare. This suggests that all four Gospel writers viewed the feeding of the 5,000 as one of the pivotal moments in Jesus’ ministry.

But the feeding of the 5,000 is not critical to all four gospels simply because it is an extraordinary miracle. It is critical because of what the miracle teaches us about believing in Jesus.

Just after the feeding of the 5,000, three of the four gospels record the exact same story: Jesus walking on the water. Luke is the outlier, who moves straight to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one of God; >Luke 9:18–21). In the other three gospels, there are multiple events that separate Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and this confession (compare >Matthew 16:13–20; >Mark 8:27–30; >John 6:66–71). But what if Luke is onto something here? Perhaps the confession that Luke records is rooted in what the feeding of the 5,000 should have taught the apostles—Jesus’ closest 12 disciples. Perhaps the confession is what we’re meant to learn before we go into the storm, through the storm, and understand more fully after the storm?


John’s Gospel records the story of Jesus walking on the water this way:

“Jesus, knowing that they [the crowd who ate at the feeding of the 5,000] intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough” (>John 6:15–18 NIV).

Matthew and Mark fill in the detail that Jesus told the apostles to cross the Sea of Galilee and that he would dismiss the crowds (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45). Thus, it was not the impatience of the disciples that sent them to sea; it was the command of their rabbi.

Here are Jesus’ closest followers, simply following the orders of their rabbi, and they are caught in a tempest. At this point, you can almost hear Simon Peter say: “Did Jesus really know what he was doing when he sent us out here?” To this, Andrew would reply, “Maybe we misheard him.” To which Bartholomew may reply, “What if he was speaking in parables again and we weren’t supposed to go to sea but to prepare for our spiritual journey?” And John the son of Zebedee would say, “You know, he isn’t a fishermen—maybe he doesn’t know what the Sea of Galilee can be like at night this time of year.” James, John’s brother, would huff angrily in agreement, as he attempted to tie down the remainder of the items on deck.

I know you’re laughing now, because you see in these responses parallels to your responses to God’s wishes. When the sea gets rough, “You too think, ‘What is happening here? I thought God asked me to do this—maybe I was wrong.’” Or even, “Maybe God was wrong.”

We can gain an incredible insight into this dilemma from the context of John’s Gospel.


John’s Gospel is ordered differently than the other three gospels. This is because John has a very different emphasis than Matthew, Mark, and Luke—known collectedly as the Synoptic Gospels.

From John 1:19 to the end of chapter 12, the Gospel of John focuses on Jesus’ public ministry—accentuated by his actions during Jewish festivals. This makes the story of Jesus walking on water rather unique: This miracle—and what it teaches—is just for the apostles. This is not for the public, but for the insiders—those already in the boat, literally. This point is accentuated by the fact that Jesus does not directly answer the later question of the crowd, “Rabbi, when did you come here [across the Sea of Galilee]?” (John 6:25). Instead, Jesus responds:

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (>John 6:26–27 NIV).

Jesus’ signs, then, are much more than miracles. They are meant to teach who he is and what he is all about. While he can answer a cry for provision, he especially wants to answer the cry of our souls. The signs, then, of John’s Gospel are about what it means for Jesus to be Messiah—the Christ, the anointed one of God—not merely about helping people.

We cannot divorce charity from the gospel. We cannot divorce the need of the stomach from the need of the soul. The whole gospel requires loving the whole person. This is Jesus’ lesson to the crowd and one of his lessons to the apostles through the storm.

Jesus emphasizes that our focus must be on relationship with God. He first takes a break from his public ministry to privately pray. And then he takes a further break to privately teach his apostles a critical lesson.


Here’s the lesson Jesus is teaching his apostles through the storm: All of this life pales in comparison to knowing God. This is why Jesus walks on the water—it’s pragmatic, he needed a time with God the Father. And this is why the apostles are in the boat: to remember their reliance on God, even when things go sideways.

John records the remainder of the story of the storm as follows:

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading” (>John 6:19–21 NIV).

Even if the disciples die, they have something to hold onto—the one who walks on the water. They have no need to fear.

This story and the feeding of the 5,000 begs the questions. If Jesus is Lord over all—the bread and the fish that he can multiply and the tumultuous sea, which he can walk on—how can he not be Lord over our lives? How can our confession of Jesus as the Christ not pull us through, even in the most difficult of circumstances?

Here in the boat, Jesus’ disciples learn that faith is no guarantee of prosperity; it’s a guarantee of eternal love and dwelling with God. This is in many ways the point of John’s Gospel (compare >John 3:16–17). Chaos overwhelms us, but the God of order stands with us.


In the ancient Near East, open water represented chaos. In ancient Near Eastern myths, the waters represent chaos that must be wrestled with by the gods; sea monsters must be battled with. If a god could subdue the waters, then he showed himself worthy of worship. The gods were looked to for order.

The gods were also looked to for provision throughout the agricultural year. They were celebrated when provision came with parades, singing, dancing, and sacrifices. In John’s Gospel, Jesus shows himself superior to these gods. He can provide grain for thousands, in the form of bread, from a few loaves (>John 6:1–15). It is not Baal who can be relied upon for this, but Jesus. It is not Dionysius, who is the true god of the vine, but the God of Israel as seen in God the Son, Jesus. He can turn water into wine (>John 2:1–11). It is not Poseidon who can subdue the seas; it is Jesus the Christ, the holy one of God, who can walk on the water (>John 6:16–21; compare >Matthew 8:23–27; >Mark 4:35–41; >Luke 8:22–25).

We all look for security and provision in all the wrong places. We look to jobs, financial investments, our homes, our family members, and our government. But we know deep down that much of life is unstable.

In the midst of the storm—in the boat of faith—we cry out to God, saying, “Why would you put me here? I thought I was following your plan. I have been your servant and you have betrayed me.”

But the truth is that God put us in the boat of faith, but he never guaranteed security. Instead Jesus told us it would be painful and difficult and that people may even kill us for our beliefs. Note that after Peter’s confession in Luke, which comes right after Jesus feeds the 5,000, that this is precisely what Jesus says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV).

What Jesus did guarantee was eternal relationship with him—through his Son who died on the cross and rose again three days later—for us.

It is through Jesus that all things were made (>John 1:1–3). It is Jesus who offers us eternal life (>John 3:16–17)—reconnecting us to God the Father. It is this God who will get us through all things, for better or worse in this life, for the sake of his eternal purposes, which are good (Romans 8:28). It is this God who can walk on the water and reign over all (>John 6:19–21). Jesus can calm the storm, but shouldn’t we praise him even if he doesn’t (>Luke 8:22–25)? After all, he is perfectly capable of walking on the water in the midst of the storm—showing that he can see far beyond it.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

4 Ways Justice is Today's Christian Cry

At times, justice becomes a bit of a catch phrase, sadly even a cliché. Yet it’s one of the most important concepts we can understand and live. I have seen injustice with my own eyes, and each day the news tells each of us of acts of injustice. But rather than feel defeat, let’s stand up, take action, and do something about it. Here are four ways justice should be the cry of today’s Christian.


In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on our pain and anguish—and on the cross, we see him taking on our sin. Think about these four things Jesus says and prays in the Garden:

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done” (>Matthew 26:36–46 LEB).

It is here that we see the man—Jesus. It is here that we find one who walks alongside the downtrodden, the hurting, the poor, the outsider, the refugee, the sinner—all the way to the cross. Here we find the one who walks alongside all of us, all the way to the cross. Here we see God enfolding, through Jesus, all people into his kingdom. Jesus does God’s will, so that we can have life.

In the garden, Jesus asks if the cup can be removed from him; but not his will, but God the Father’s be done. Jesus realizes the burden he is about to carry. This burden is described in Isaiah (over 500 years before Jesus) as:

“By a restraint of justice, [the servant] was taken away and with his generation.

Who could have mused that [the servant] would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.

And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted him (with sickness). If [Zion] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.

[Yahweh says,] ‘My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities’ ” (>Isaiah 53:8–11, my translation).

As painful as it is, it pleased Yahweh that Jesus should go to the cross, for it is in this that God found not just ultimate obedience, but also the bridging of humanity with himself. The judgment of God for our wrongdoings was satisfied. Once again, we were put into right relationship with God.

It is in Jesus that we find the refugee on the cross. Here we find the guilt offering for all of our wrongs. Here we find one who carries our sin, bears our iniquities, and intercedes for transgressors. Here we find a restraint of justice bringing justice to those who do not deserve it.

But what will we do with this justice, with this freedom?


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work from Birmingham Jail. And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet.

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.

We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.

We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.


We can read Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:37–40 as a direct preface and parallel to what he will do on the cross. Jesus went to the cross to make us who do not deserve to be right before God, made right. And just before doing so, he calls us to live this message—noting for us that whether or not we did will be a primary question when he one day returns to earth.

So when we look around our world, and see a lack of access to basic healthcare, clean water, and jobs—like I have seen in the impoverished region of Bihar, India—we know that we must take action.

Jesus cries out for this. This is the Christian cry. And it is my personal cry, as I am personally broken for the hurting that I know in Bihar—for those who have placed their hands in my hands and cried out to God with me for justice.


We can also read the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus, as a commission based on his ministry in life, on the cross, and in his resurrection. And it’s a commission of action. Jesus says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20 LEB).

Yet, there are still millions of people who have not heard Jesus’ name—again, this is the case in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. This again, is an injustice. All people deserve the chance to have access to the gospel.

The question becomes for each of us: What will we do about it? Why are we content with the knowledge of God, but not the actions of God? When will justice become part of the gospel? Because in actuality it is—we’re just not living it.

Do not walk away with guilt; walk away inspired to take action. Let’s continue the work of Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s mark this season as the one everything changed, and we began to renew our world again with Christ, by his power and grace.

Photo credit: Unsplash

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

The Christian Response to Disaster

Hurricane Matthew has devastated whole communities—from Haiti and the Caribbean to the U.S. East Coast. In Syria, a war is raging that is killing men, women, and children alike. Part of Nigeria faces a severe famine. The pain of all this is completely overwhelming. It can make us feel completely helpless. We all know that a single person cannot fix the world’s problems. But to sit idly is equally wrong. How should we as Christians respond?


When we as Christians face a crisis of any kind, we must lean on our beliefs. Indeed, right theology results in right actions. We have a theology for crises. It starts with trust in a God who desires order.

If you look at the book of Genesis from an ancient Near Eastern perspective, you see that many of God’s creative acts are about bringing order to chaos. Take a look at the third day of creation:

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under heaven be gathered to one place, and let the dry ground appear.’ And it was so. And God called the dry ground ‘earth,’ and he called the collection of the waters ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good” (>Genesis 1:9–10 LEB).

In the ancient Near East, water was the ultimate symbol of chaos. In several ancient Near Eastern myths, gods tangle with the waters to show themselves superior. But for our God, the Israelite God Yahweh, this is an easy task. He rules over these forces of chaos.

Later, Adam and Eve are appointed to steward God’s creation; God instructs them to bring order as he had done (Genesis 1:28). Our mandate as people, from the beginning, is to believe in a God who creates order and to bring the same order to our world.


We serve a God who walks with us. Even when Adam and Eve sin against Yahweh, he is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day—he is seeking them out (Genesis 3:8–9). God doesn’t need a relationship with us, but he desires one. Today, we continue the conversation with God through prayer—having Christ as the means of a restored relationship with God (Hebrews 4:14–16).

When we see the pain of our world, we must acknowledge that it exists because things are not as they should be. The order that God desires is not fully present. Everything from natural disasters to warfare to famines can in some way be traced back to things being out of alignment with God’s ultimate will for the world.

This is why Paul the Apostle says:

“For the eagerly expecting creation awaits eagerly the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation has been subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its servility to decay, into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19–21 LEB).

In Paul’s era, many Jews were looking forward to a day when the Messiah would not just reign in Israel but restore order to the created world. They looked forward to a Messianic age. We have this same hope in the Lord Jesus—knowing that he will return and bring order:

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:1–4).

We must, like the apostles, pray for new creation for our entire world. We must pray, “Come, Lord Jesus come,” while also crying out, “Lord Jesus, please stand alongside the hurting of our world. And help me to be a person who stands alongside them with you.”


The gospel of Jesus requires us to take action. We cannot idly watch the state of our world and still call ourselves Christians. This is incompatible with Jesus’ theology. Jesus makes this clear when he says: “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37 NKJV). The Letter of James also articulates this idea:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27 ESV).

Note that James does not just speak of right action, but also a right spirit—being “unstained from the world.” In essence, he is saying that if we love the hurting, there is little room for the idleness that leads to sin (compare James 1:13–15).

For James, we—as those who bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27)—are representatives of God’s goodness to a broken and hurting world:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (>James 1:16–18 ESV).

Therefore, as “firstfruits” of God’s labor, let us take action that represents him.

Let us as Christians be unified in our belief in the God of order. Let us have solidarity in our prayer, asking God to intercede on behalf of the hurting. Let us have camaraderie in action—serving the hurting together.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

This Should Be Our Chief Aim in Life

We all struggle with vocation, calling, and purpose. Life is confusing and often dissatisfying. Clarity is our desire. But what if we’re making all this far too complicated?


Overthinking can unnecessarily complicate life. But a lack of focus on our inner life can also oversimplify life.

We should be serious about questioning the meaning of our existence. It’s only in being so that the great innovators and philosophers have had significant breakthroughs. We must look inside ourselves to examine what’s lacking, what’s working, and where we’re failing. We should desire more out of life and ourselves—always.

Yet, if we spend too long staring inward we will lose sight of what is right outside our door. There is beauty and truth in nature itself (compare Romans 1:20). By staring inward, we can miss that entirely. And many epiphanies come through conversation, so we also cannot sell short the value of other people in our lives.

This reminds me of the psalmist who says, “Behold, you [God] delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:1 ESV). Yet, there is a Proverb that says, “Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). The Bible envisions us learning from others, but also having a diligent and serious inner, spiritual life. God teaches us in secret and in public.


We cannot change the world without first being changed ourselves. As someone who spends a great deal of my time trying to alleviate extreme poverty —a huge problem to tackle—the scope of the work often overwhelms me. The problem is so big that I often lose perspective and begin to despair.

But prayer has a powerful way of keeping everything in check. I find that if my prayer life is in check—meaning it is consistent and driving my daily decisions—that everything else falls into place.

When we look up to God, and then look back down here at what he is doing, we remember. We remember what everything is about—why we do what we do, and who we really are. We can then lean on Jesus. This is why the Apostle Paul told us to pray—in all things, all the time (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18).


The South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once profoundly said:

“It is a duty, for the glory of God, to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered. For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn to pray well” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, page 126).

It is for God’s glory that we are to live and pray. And it glorifies God when we have much to pray about. The answer isn’t to run away from the problems of the world. We should care for the hurting around us—deeply—but do so through prayer. We should tackle the problems of poverty, but to do so through much prayer.

God’s glory is manifest in the answering of our prayers, for the sake of our world.


I think we overcomplicate purpose, calling, and vocation. When it comes down to it, the glory of God is what everything is about.

I regularly have to remind myself of several things. God’s glory is what alleviating poverty is about. God’s glory is what bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth is about. God’s glory is seen in the slice of bread given to the poor beggar and the cup of clean water given to the impoverished child (Matthew 25:31–46). God’s glory is what we’re aiming to show to others—all the time.

God’s glory is seen when we live our lives like we actually believe God’s promises. God’s glory brings perspective to our vocations, callings, and purposes. What are they if they do not glorify him? So question—please. Think—please. Look inwardly—please. But don’t forget the reason. May our prayer today be, “O, my soul, please never forget the reason—for all of it, for everything! God’s glory!”

Our chief aim in life should be the glory of God. Period. Full stop. 

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

4 Reasons Why Fair Trade Matters to Christianity

Our Bible study should inform our practices. Yet when it comes to our purchases, it rarely does. But there is a solution—and it’s biblical.


The term “Fair Trade” describes an economic exchange in which laborers receive a fair living wage. And fair trade is based on Christian values.

Here in the U.S., we believe in equitable exchanges. It’s why we have a minimum wage. It’s why we request raises commensurate with our achievements. But are we really living these principles in all aspects of life? The hard truth is that we aren’t.

Fair trade matters for the sake of our world. And it matters for Christianity—here are four reasons why all Christians should support fair trade.


The majority of what we purchase in the U.S. is based on unjust economic exchanges. The exploitation of labor in developing nations reduces the costs we pay here in the U.S. And as such, a large portion of clothing manufactures, and producers of other items, aim to pay people the smallest amount possible. This is a practice that we as Christians should oppose—not just with our words, but also with our wallets.

While it is not possible yet to buy everything you need from a fair trade manufacturer, there are many fair trade options. One day, God willing, we will be able to buy everything we need at fair trade wages and fair trade will be the norm.


Fair trade represents justice and equality. And justice and equality are key tenants of Christianity. On this point, the prophets especially come to mind. Over and over again the prophets call us to live the principles of justice, mercy, and humility (e.g., Micah 6:6–8). Near the beginning of the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah records God saying:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:16–17 ESV).

We should plead the widow’s cause by buying products that empower women. We should learn to do good by understanding the implications of our purchases. We should live the principles of justice. If we desire justice, then we should make justice a priority when it comes to our purchases. If we believe in equality, then we should back that with our entire lifestyles.


Work is central to who we are. It was a major part of the lives of the apostles and something they advocated for (e.g., Acts 18:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But work is not an option for some—they lack the opportunity. And where work is available, it is not a fair exchange. We can change that through creating fair trade jobs.

If done right, fair trade is one way to change lives through business. Fair trade products are purchased at a price that allows for people to overcome poverty. Fair trade creates safe, sustainable, and profitable jobs. It also provides high quality products for people around the world to use and enjoy.


If Jesus was to create an economy, it would be based on love and self-sacrifice. But fair trade isn’t even asking for self-sacrifice; it’s asking that we simply respect people—that we show them the dignity of being paid what their work is worth.

Fair trade represents life transformation for impoverished artisans. It represents a chance for their dreams to become real. It means their families having sustainable incomes and real money coming into their economies.

Jesus envisioned a world where we truly loved our neighbors (Mark 12:31). Fair trade is a way for us to show his love. It’s a way to live what we believe.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. For further information on fair trade, see the Jesus’ Economy Fair Trade Standards. Also, check out the Jesus’ Economy online Fair Trade Shop, where you can purchase beautiful products made by developing world artisans.

The Controversy of Loving the Unlovable

Jesus’ life was surrounded by controversy. From the impoverished town of Nazareth and the disrespected region of Galilee, Jesus was an unexpected leader. Yet the controversy surrounding Jesus only began with his origins. The true controversy—the one that led to Jesus’ death on a cross—was how often he questioned religious leadership. Jesus loved the unlovable and commanded other leaders to do the same.


“Then children were brought to [Jesus] that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (>Matthew 19:13–15 ESV).

The disciples’ response is understandable; Jesus is a busy rabbi. Jesus was constantly traveling, for three years, and had many people requesting his attention. But Jesus shows the disciples that they lack understanding of the true purpose of his ministry: to love people and show them the way to salvation.

Jesus wasn’t looking for those in power, or for those who could give back to him. He wasn’t in search of a donor, benefactor, or bigger platform. Jesus was in search of opportunities to offer mercy and justice. So what does Jesus do? Receive the children. Jesus ministers to those at the bottom of the social latter, who literally could do nothing for him. This shows true love.


Jesus’ decisions to love the unlovable were controversial. He didn’t act like the ordinary rabbi and didn’t put up with the viewpoints of ordinary rabbis. At one point, Jesus said the following of his contemporary religious leaders:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (>Matthew 23:23–24 ESV).

The scribes and Pharisees focused on small matters to the neglect of larger principles. They pointed to the Law (the first five books of the Bible) and demanded giving as a result. Yet they neglected the principles behind the Law. In essence, Jesus was saying: You’re choking on your own words.

Standing here today, it is easy to accuse the Pharisees. But it is much more difficult to realize how we are the same.

We too often ignore mercy and justice. Just think of the children whom Jesus so openly embraced. And now think of all the orphans in our world, and all the mothers who cannot provide for their children. These are real and manageable problems that we can do something about, but we fail to act. We may give and tithe, but there is so much more to do.

Truly loving other people is inconvenient. And loving the unlovable, or those who could never love us back, is difficult and painful. Yet we must make justice and mercy our priority, lest Jesus also call us hypocrites.

Let’s embrace the controversy of loving the unlovable.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

Our World is Unstable and God is the Answer

“In those days there was no king in Israel; each one did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 LEB).

Our problems start with each person doing what is right in his or her own eyes. Justice, mercy, and reconciliation should not just be buzzwords—they should be ideals we live by. We must live by God’s views of equality and the value of human life. God’s ways must be our ways.


Our world seems unstable. Each person seems to do what is right in his or her own eyes. But it is not as if our God has stopped talking. God is still enthroned in heaven—we just need to give him room in our lives here on earth.

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and think about the God we serve. I think of what God said to Job:

“Where were you at the my laying the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding. Who determined its measurement? … Or who stretched the measuring line upon it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars were singing together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (>Job 38:4–7 LEB).

If we serve a God who can establish the earth, what can he not do? Certainly this God can reconcile people. Certainly this God can establish justice, bring mercy, and teach us to walk humbly before him (Micah 6:8). Certainly this God can bring stability to our unstable world.


The beginning of reconciliation is the recognition that we do not truly understand where others are coming from. But that should not stop us from attempting to empathize. I regularly think of my experience as a child who could not speak correctly—and being discriminated against simply for my speech impediment. It helps me to feel a little bit of what my brothers and sisters living on the underside of power feel. It helps me empathize.

Yet I also recognize that I still don’t know what it is like to be someone else. I can empathize, but I shouldn’t pretend to understand another person’s full experiences.


Truly loving other people demands action. When we witness people discriminated against, we must desire change and advocate for it, or we lack love. When we hear about people being needlessly killed, because of hatred, we must show love to fight the hatred. When we see the poverty in our world—and realize that we have the resources to alleviate it—we must act. If we ignore it, we show ourselves to lack love.

“No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 LEB).

And who should our friends be? And who should our neighbors be? The citizens of this earth, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We should love others to the point of being willing to give up our very lives for them.

John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.