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Imitate Christ – Together

Joe started meeting in an Inspire fellowship band shortly after he made a kidney donation and he wanted to share his remarkable story with us.  

Joe writes: 

“My hope for everyone in the Inspire Movement is that we continue to grow as followers of Christ, being bold and ambitious for his glory. This is my story about why following Jesus led me to donate a kidney.

I love to read the gospels. As I pick up my bible, I’m enthralled by the person of Jesus, inviting the outsiders, rebuking the religious, ministering to the poor and the sick. His life is as counter-cultural today as it was 2,000 years ago. In 2017 I took part in a ‘Mark drama’ where I was somehow persuaded to act the part of Jesus and consequently had to memorise everything that Jesus says in the gospel of Mark. It was an amazing and life-changing experience as many of those words stayed with me. In particular Mark 8:34, ‘whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’. I’ve always been struck by this call on my life as a Christian.

One day I was doing the washing up, and I heard on the radio that you could give a kidney to a stranger (altruistic kidney donation). I was immediately intrigued and I did my research. I learned that donation is relatively low-risk and that donors have statistically better health long-term than the average population. I learned that one altruistic donor, could enable a chain of donations, allowing two or three people to receive a life-saving transplant. I reflected on Mark 8:34. In modern Christian culture, we sometimes assume that faith will result in a happy and comfortable life. But at that moment I sensed that God was calling me to follow Jesus and take up my cross, embracing the potential of suffering so that I could serve the stranger in need. I decided to donate. 

I had many medical tests before I was approved to donate and I finally had my operation in May 2019. After the operation I was up and about, returning home the next day. The hospital covered my loss of income and I had a lovely six week ‘kidney holiday’ recovering with my family. My life now is no different than before except for the quiet satisfaction of knowing that God has used my kidney to save someone’s life. In fact, my recipient wrote to me to say that she was now able to play with her grandchildren again and thanked God for her new kidney.  

I found myself wondering why aren’t more Christians doing this? Altruistic kidney donation is a profound parallel of the gospel: that God gave physically for us, whilst we were strangers, to save us from death. For me donation opened doors to witness my faith to friends, colleagues and family. However unknown to me, many Christians had donated, including Christian doctors and nurses as well as a vicar and a theologian. In fact the very first altruistic donor in the UK was a Christian. But why had there never been a concerted effort to raise awareness to the Church?

In July 2020 mid-pandemic I launched an initiative called Faith in Operation and whilst only a couple of months old, I’ve seen some encouraging signs of receptiveness including three Christians who are now at some stage of the donation process. My vision is that together the Church could be instrumental in ending the waiting list for a kidney. In a world where Christians are often stereotyped as hypocritical and judgemental, imagine the difference if they could instead be known for unconditional self-giving love. The same love that we have received through Christ. For anyone interested in donation, or wanting to sign up for the newsletter, please check out the Faith in Operation website. I would really value your prayer.  

The truth is however bold our vision, and however great our ambition to imitate Christ, we cannot do it alone. For me, my radical decision was affected greatly by that drama in which I literally acted out the gospel with Christian brothers and sisters, and literally imitated Christ. As we seek to imitate Christ in our daily lives, we must remember the importance of fellowship. In 2020 the biggest driver of my spiritual growth has been joining an Inspire fellowship band with other passionate Christians who have challenged, encouraged and prayed for me. I hope that the Church can grow in being more generously sacrificial and win a better reputation, but I believe we are not likely to produce such counter-cultural growth unless we invest deeply in each other.”

Joe is in an Inspire Fellowship Band in Leeds, UK.

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