The Delusions of Self-Importance
I was brought up to be “a great man of God.” When I was a boy I would often go forward to the alter call in an evangelistic service on a Sunday night in our Baptist Church. And each time I went forward the elders would pray that I would grow up to be “a great man of God.” When I became a young man I dreamed of becoming a missionary and made the motto of William Carey, our most famous Baptist missionary, my own. It reminded me to: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Hence I dreamed of greatness.
One day I imagined my moment for greatness had come at last. I’d got a phone call from the International Red Cross asking me if I was interested in playing what was probably a minor part in a project they were involved with supporting peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Because of my delusions of grandeur I immediately interpreted this minor part they were asking me to play as a potentially major part in the Middle East peace process. In my mind I could already see a picture of my face on the cover of Time magazine under the headline: “Dave Brings Peace To The Middle East!”
“I was so excited had I held my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and called out to Ange in the kitchen: “Ange, the Red Cross want us to go to help bring peace in the Middle East! Shall we go?” And she said a straight-out “No.”
I thought she must have not grasped what a great opportunity this was for me, my ministry, my destiny. So I called out to her: “Hey this a great opportunity to make a great contribution to history.” And she said a straight-out “No” again.
So I said to the Red Cross person waiting patiently on the phone for my reply: “Thanks for the invitation. It’s a great idea. I’ll talk to my wife about it and get back to you.”
I put down the phone, walked into the kitchen and asked Ange: “How could you possibly pass up on such a great opportunity.” After all, I said, “It’s what we were made for. It’s what people have prayed for.”
Then she said something to me I will never forget. She said, “Dave, they will always find plenty of people who want to do big jobs like that. But who will do the little things that need to be done in our community if we don’t?”
I was gob smacked. I retired to our bedroom to seek some solace in the scripture, secretly hoping to find some proof text I could find to reprove her.
But for better or worse I came across these verses in Philippians chapter 2 verses 6 to 8:
Each of you should not look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. You should all have exactly the same attitude as Christ Jesus had: For he who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but he stripped himself of all privilege, emptied himself, and made himself nothing, in order to be born by nature as a mortal. And, having become a human being, he humbled himself, living the life of a slave, a life of utter obedience, even unto death. And the death he died, on the cross, was the death of a common criminal.
Paul says the path Jesus took was not great. To the contrary, it essentially involved consciously setting aside any aspirations to greatness along the way. Paul points out, that as the story goes, Jesus moved in alongside people, as one of them. He did not try to be different. He lived the same life that other people lived, experiencing the same hassles and the same hardships as everybody else. Jesus wasn’t full of himself. Rather, emptying himself, he immersed himself in the lives of others, allowing their concerns to fill his consciousness. In the midst of their common struggle, Jesus made himself available to the people as their servant, seeking in all he said and did to set them free to live their lives to the full. And when it came to the crunch, Jesus did not cut and run. He was prepared to pay the price for his commitment to the people in his community – in blood, sweat, and tears.
It seemed to me Paul was saying that people like me, who say we want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, need to empty ourselves of our ambition to do big things, as “great men and women of God” – so we can make time and space to do the little things that need to be done with a lot of love over the long haul, “as little brothers and sisters of Jesus.”
I remember plaintively asking God: “Don’t you have any big plans for me at all?” And in a voice that sounded a lot like Ange, I heard Him say straight out “No. None at all.” So that was that. I knew I needed to empty my mind of my delusions of grandeur about being a great man of God in order to be able to embrace my call to be a little brother of Jesus.
Praise for To Right Every Wrong
“Reading To Right Every Wrong is like finding some lost compilation tapes by Bob Dylan and discovering a treasure trove of new versions of his greatest hits, lost gems, and some fresh material. Dave Andrews, the original Christi-anarchist, reflects on a lifetime of living among and serving the poor, and calling others to join him, and the result is operatic! A must for those who haven’t been introduced to Dave’s work before, and a joy to those of us who have drawn inspiration from him for decades.”
—Michael Frost, Missiologist, Morling College, and author of Keep Christianity Weird
“It’s not every day one has the pleasure of encountering someone who has lived passionately, consistently, and courageously in the way of Jesus, but Dave Andrews is one of those people. ‘To Right Every Wrong’ offers a rollicking series of stories, insights, and observations about following Jesus in the world sure to inspire any sincere seeker into deeper discipleship. Dave’s story, like his life, is wonderfully all over the place, literally and figuratively, as he and his wife, Angie, seek solidarity with the poor . . . while engaging in an endless, energetic campaign of writing, speaking, breaking bread, and confronting injustice, in the world and in themselves. Rarely has the risky, dangerous life of authentic discipleship … [been done] ‘with such grand gusto’!”
—Wes Howard-Brook, Author of Come Out, My People: God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond
“’To Right Every Wrong’ is an encyclopedia of Dave’s praxis: the sources shaping his own distinctive thinking along with a litany of examples of his activities arising from these ideas. If you want to understand what’s inspired, shaped, and sustained Dave over his life, read this book. We met Dave and Angie in 1978 in India as they began developing community in Delhi with Indian nationals. Lynden and I were in our early idealistic twenties, exploring our own life vocation. Their welcome, vision, ideas, and commitment to living Jesus’s kingdom life were compelling, encouraging, challenging, and transformational for us. Some forty years later, this continues to be so.”
—Michael Prince, Leadership Coach and Facilitator, Oasis People & Culture
“This book is classic Dave Andrews. … In it, Dave Andrews shares his thoughtful plea to follow Jesus … with a touching, reflective, extra personal touch. It is a great way to get to know Dave further—his life, his priorities, his struggles, and his mission—to live by the Christian anarchism he has been preaching. The numerous stories from his inspirational life are shared with confessional frankness, giving a vivid illustration of his efforts to take on the role of a modern prophet.”
—Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Author of Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel
“I loved reading Dave’s story. Christians have struggled with the question of what it really means to follow Jesus. Secular people observing what Christians do have scratched their heads and asked the same question. Readers will find in Dave Andrews’s life story an answer. And it is inspiring.”
—Tim Costello, Senior Fellow, Centre for Public Christianity, and author of A Lot With A Little
About the Author
Dave Andrews, his wife Ange, and their family, have lived and worked in intentional communities with marginalized groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal for more than forty years. He now lives in a large joint household with his wife, children, grandchildren and others in an inner city community in Brisbane, Australia. Dave is particularly interested in radical spirituality, incarnational community and the dynamics of personal and social transformation. He is author of many books and articles, including Christi-Anarchy, Not Religion, But Love, Building A Better World, Down Under – In-Depth Community Work, Out And Out – Way-Out Community Work, Compassionate Community Work, People of Compassion, Living Community, A Divine Society, and the Plan Be Series – Plan Be, Hey, Be And See, and See What I Mean?