Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged by his peers to write someone’s story in just six words. As they watched, he scribbled on a napkin “For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.” They were stunned. Impressive whether true or not.
Inspired by the legend, in 2006 a magazine asked its readers to write their own six-word memoirs. They sent them in by the thousands. Those submissions became the best selling book Not Quite What I was Planning. And they keep coming in via http://www.sixwordmemoirs.com/ .
Here are a few favorites…
- I ate my weight in sweets.
- Break bricks with head. Take aspirin.
- Lost my dog. Lost my wife.
- Maybe I’m on the wrong meds.
- Spending birthday with mom. Send vodka.
And the more serious…
- Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.
- I’ll cry if I want to.
- Nothing on earth is like death.
It’s hard to believe so much can be communicated in so few words, but somehow it works. Hemingway wasn’t the first to achieve this, though. Two thousand years ago a doctor named Luke summed up the life of Jesus in just as few words:
“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,” (Acts 1:1, ESV)
“Jesus began to do and teach,” the six word memoir of Jesus Christ, sums up perfectly what He was about. And from these six simple words we learn the importance of both doing and teaching. Most churches, denominations, and even Christians major in one or the other but not both.
Some invest in the doing side of faith and are into ministry and community. They have food pantries and meals-on-wheels programs and can organize an army to tackle a neighborhood clean up project overnight, which is awesome. But when it comes to teaching, to confronting people with the truths Jesus preached, crickets are heard chirping. Others are all about the “Word.” They preach sound doctrine and go door-to-door asking people if they died right then do they know for certain they’d go to heaven, but they haven’t invested a dollar or a day in meeting their community’s needs. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.
We discover something else in this hexad. It’s no accident “do” precedes “teach.” Jesus first addressed physical brokenness so He could tackle the infinitely greater problem, spiritual brokenness. And spiritual brokenness is healed through the truths Jesus taught about why we’re broken and how its remedy comes only through a personal relationship with Him. It’s so cliche but true, people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.
Christians and churches will always be known for what they do far more than what they teach. The early church was famous for its radical belief in the resurrection of Jesus (teaching), but it was their demonstrated love for people that stunned the world and made them listen (doing).
What Jesus began to do and teach is ongoing through His followers today. Let’s make sure we get it right and live out those six words to the fullest.