Excerpt from the book by Gary A. Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission (a place I dream to volunteer with someday):

Going on the Journey but Missing the Adventure

Even though I read the words almost twenty-five years ago, I can still picture them upon the page. The words were and have remained so disturbing to me that I remember exactly where I was when I read them. I was a freshman in college sitting up late one night in the dorm laundry room waiting for my clothes to dry and reading John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty”.

Writing in 1859, Mill was trying to explain the process by which words lose their meaning, and he casually offered that the best example of this phenomenon was Christians. Christians, he observed, seem to have the amazing ability to say the most wonderful things without actually believing them.

What became more disturbing was his list of things that Christians, like me, actually say—like, blessed are the poor and humble; it’s better to give than receive; judge not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc.—and examining, one by one, how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. As Mill concluded, “The sayings of Christ co-exist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland.”

Looking at each of the glorious declarations on the list and at the corresponding mediocrity of my own daily character, Mill’s observation seemed simply and clearly true. What ended up surprising me, however, was what followed—which was not a rush of guilt or despair, but the opening of a fresh and unexpected window of hope. Perhaps my life need not be, in fact, so manifestly shriveled and mediocre if I began to act as if what Jesus said were actually true.