Why I'm at Sojourners

By Timothy King 08-30-2010

I was concerned last week when I received a phone call from a person who informed me that there was no way I could both be a Christian and work for Sojourners. They hung up before I was able to speak, but the barbs of their words stuck with me.

That night around 2 a.m. I got up to write down some of what God has been doing in my heart and life lately. No matter what your politics are or what you think about Sojourners, I hope my story is a blessing and encouragement to you.

It was about 4 a.m. on Christmas morning. I was still in the ICU. It can be hard to sleep with all the machines blinking and beeping. For the first time since I had gone into the hospital, I had the strength to reach for the remote and turn on the TV. First a cooking show, then an infomercial, and finally CNN. The reporter was saying something about health-care reform. I was in a lot of pain, and I pressed the button that would deliver more narcotics in through my IV. Maybe they'll pass health-care reform today, I thought. On the TV, someone was telling that old WWI story of the British troops and the German troops coming together and playing soccer on Christmas day. If a group of German soldiers and British soldiers could put their differences aside on Christmas, then maybe the Republicans and Democrats could ... No, I realized. That's just the pain medicine.

But then another thought hit me. This is why I am at Sojourners.

My health problems began in early November, and from the middle of December until the end of June, I wasn't well enough to work. Over the summer I built up my strength, and just last week returned to work full time. When all was said and done, my doctors told me that it had been a 50/50 shot as to whether I would live or die.

After working much of last fall on health-care reform, I had become very focused on the policy issues. What would certain legislation mean for access? Cost? Life issues? I now know firsthand how much policy matters. If I didn't have insurance through Sojourners, I would either be dead (because I'm 26, and anytime I had gone uninsured in the past few years I refused to see a doctor when sick) or filing for bankruptcy (possibly my parents would have sold their house and cashed out their retirement savings, but that still wouldn't have covered all my costs).

But on Christmas morning in the ICU, my hope certainly wasn't in Congress. My faith was not resting in any political party. My dad read the Christmas story from Luke 2 while my little sister and mom held my hands. The hope of the world in the Word made flesh. Jesus Christ.

Over the next few months, I needed not just the hope of Christ but the Body of Christ. Day after day my co-workers from Sojourners came to visit, pray, and just be with me. They drove family members to and from the airport, hosted my parents in their homes, and stayed up late into the night with my mom to pray and cry when the doctors said I might not make it. When I was finally discharged from the hospital, Jim Wallis and his family hosted my mom and me for more than a month while I was still too sick to go back to my own apartment.

No legislation and no government can ever provide the kind of support that I needed. No matter who is making policy, nothing would ever replace or fill the role of the Body of Christ.

This is why I am at Sojourners.

Yes, we've taken strong stances on policy issues. Yes, we believe that the government has a role in providing health care, ending poverty, and protecting the environment, and that it arguably jumps into armed conflict too quickly. Over the past 100 years, these stances have been given many different names politically, and over the next 100 years, they will be renamed and relabeled over and over again.

But first, we are Christian. We humbly pray that we will be on God's side, and then we try to boldly live that out. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don't. We try to discern biblical principles for social justice that can be applied to our world today. We affirm that Christians of all stripes and sorts will both agree and disagree with our results. We believe that no commitment to any political party can bring about the kind of change that Jesus has called us to make in the world.

I get concerned when some people don't believe that we are first and foremost a Christian organization. It is why I am here. It is why I do what I do. If I did not believe it, I would quit. We live out to the best of our abilities what I was convicted of so strongly while lying there in the ICU. Policy matters -- but nothing matters like the Word made flesh.

Tim King is communications manager and special assistant to the CEO at Sojourners. Over the past few weeks, questions have been raised in certain circles about a few of Sojourners' funding sources. In response, we've put together a FAQ page that addresses the questions that have been raised around our funding and mission. It was in this context that Tim wrote the reflection above.

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