To witness the way the non-Christian world is marking the life and passing of John Stott --http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/kristof-evangelicals-without-blowhards.html?hp --
is affirmation that a life marked by humility, love and service is a clearer representation of the character of God than any culture warrior can ever be. Stott managed to hold together devotion to Christ, respect for the authority of Scripture, concern for the poor, a voice on pressing issues of the day without a partisan identity, and a rejection of materialism in an age of excess. His life and work remind us that the Gospel is indeed good news, and when preached and lived in its fullness it transforms the poor, the outcast, and the brokenness in our fallen world.
Through the years, he was often in our parish church in Falls Church, Virginia, and I had the occasion to hear him preach there. Once I was invited to a small lunch with Stott in the Senate Member's Dining Room in the Capitol with a few friends who also worked in the Senate. I don't remember a lot of the substance of that day, but I will never forget the humility and graciousness of this esteemed scholar and theologian as he sat for lunch with a few young, eager American Hill staffers. And I recall the way in which he cared about important issues of our day but seemed so far above any kind of partisanship. Looking back, it is easy to see how his first love was Christ and his loyalty was to the Gospel and its claims far and above any earthly power, system, or political party. It wasn't that these things didn't matter, it was just that they seemed to be held in perfect perspective. I've since read a number of his books and commentaries on Scripture. "The Cross of Christ" has become a yearly Lenten devotional for me. Nothing has influenced my understanding of the kingdom of God and the proper meaning of sharing the Gospel like "Christian Mission in the Modern World." And I have been blessed to be a part of a congregation that lived this out in a way that I could see and experience long before I ever read this book. So much so that by the time I read it, I said "that's it!" That's what we've been doing all these years. And for this I am grateful to both John Stott and to his friend and my own pastor, John Yates.
Leadership matters. Because we see so much "through a glass darkly" as the Apostle Paul tells us (and my friend Steve Garber so often reminds me), examples are essential. John Stott showed us a life so devoted to the claims of the Gospel that we caught a glimpse of how the transformative power of Christ could work in us to live out those impossible claims of the Sermon on the Mount. Thanks be to God for his faithfulness and for raising up John Stott in our age.