Now, what is it that these people need, and that we can give to them? May I first remind you what they don't need? Well, let it be said as plainly as it can be that they don't need the transferring to heathen soil of our Western church systems, nor our schemes of organizations. It is not our Western creeds and theology that they stand in need of.
Of course, there need to be both churches and organizations. Only so will the work be done, and what is gotten held together. But these are in themselves temporary. They are immensely important and indispensable, but not the chief thing. The great need is of the story of Jesus. That is, plain teaching about sin—the hardest task of all for the missionary, whether in Asia or America—and the damnable results locked up in sin. Then the winsome telling, the tirelessly patient and persistently gentle telling of the story of love, God's love as revealed in Jesus. The telling them that Jesus will put a new moral power inside a man that will make him over new.
But they need even more than this, aye, far more. They need men—human beings like themselves, living among them in closest touch—whose clean, strong, sweet lives spell out the Jesus-story as no human lips can ever tell it.
To live side by side with men who like themselves are tempted sorely, but who show plainly in their lives a power that downs the temptation—this is their great need. The good seed, after all, is not the message of truth merely, but the "sons of the kingdom," (Mat_13:38) men living the message of Jesus, and more, the power of Jesus, daily.
A kindergarten teacher opened a mission among the slum children of a very poor section of Chicago. She began her work by gathering a number of dirty, unkempt children of the street into the neat mission room. Then, instead of preaching or praying or something of the conventional sort at the first, she brought in and set on a table a large beautiful calla lily, bewitching in its simple white beauty.
The effect of the flower on one child, a little girl, was striking. No sooner had she looked at it than she looked down at her own dirty hands and clothes, with a flush creeping into her face. Then she quickly went out into the street. In a little while she was back again, but with her face washed, her hair combed, her dress tidied up, and a bit of colored ribbon added. She walked straight up to the lily again, and looked long, with deep wondering admiration in her eyes, at the beautiful white flower.
The flower's purity was a mirror in which she saw her own dirtiness. It was a magnet drawing her gently but strongly up to its own higher level. It was an inspiration moving her irresistibly to respond to its own upward pull.
A simple, pure, human life is the greatest moral magnet. Jesus Himself down here was just such a magnet. Such a life is impossible for us without Jesus. It tells His power as no tongue can. It spells out loudly a standard of life and, far more, a power that can lift the life up to the standard. It doesn't simply tell what we should be. That may only tantalize and tease. But it tells what we actually can be.
Jesus is more than a message. He is a living power in a man's life. This is the great need of men's hearts,—the message of Jesus' purity and of Jesus' power embodied in live men, living side by side, in the thick of things, with their brothers of the great world.