Wm. Paul Young is a bestselling author originally from Canada now based in Oregon. His first book, “The Shack,” a Christian novel about a person meeting God in person, was a surprise hit within both the faith and non-faith communities, and has sold more than 15 million copies. He has a new book out called “Crossroads,” and I had the opportunity to sit down with him during a stop on his book tour in Cambridge, Ontario, where he graciously agreed to share some thoughts about global poverty, faith and activism and responsibility with ONE.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
Sarah Stone: How do you think working on global poverty with organizations like ONE and others, helps us on our spiritual journey? Does it help?
Wm. Paul Young: Yes of course, because where do we think kindness and goodness and all of these elements of our true humanity arise from? It has to arise from the very nature and character of God. So how can participation in these types of things not impact our own journey? It’s going to run up against our prejudices, the lies in our heart, our low view of humanity – it’s going to run up against the things we hold onto that are truly idolatrous, but we hold onto because we think it’s part of our identity.
These kinds of involvements [in global poverty issues] – it’s the garden in which the Holy Spirit gets to dig around in our souls. It never goes just one way. We had the old colonial mentality that you go and do your thing “for them” – no, these things will always go both ways. The Holy Spirit is not going to waste the opportunity to dig around and root around in your heart at same time as you are involved in the expression of compassion and goodness [to others].
Do people of faith have a responsibility to use their voices to advocate on behalf of the world’s poor?
I think people of faith have an ability to respond [to the plight of the poor]. The love we have for our own children and the children in other parts of the world that love originates in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is God sharing his affection for that person with me.
So yes, advocacy and all those things are going to be worked in by the Holy Spirit because everyone matters, each individual matters and our own journey in terms of advocacy is about what’s going on in our hearts and is [as] important to God as the mission. It’s about what is God working into your heart as a result of interacting with this [advocacy work]. So those folks and their needs becomes the ground and the tapestry for the Holy Spirit to work in us as well. It never just works one way.
Why is God’s heart towards the poor?
This is where your paradigm comes in. If you have an “us and them” paradigm, it’s very different than understanding that all of creation is inside of Jesus. That’s where creation is created. It’s in Him. Nothing has come into being apart from Him. So that person [living in poverty] is already in the affection of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and I get to participate in that because I’m also already in the affection of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and I’m an image bearer. I’m not somebody who is just going to go “help them.” Jesus says in 1 John 14-16, “when you are loving them you are loving Me.”