The inaugural chapel of World Christian (aka: Missions Emphasis) Week here at CIU was held yesterday.
The theme of the chapel this year is ‘God’s Plan, Your Part,’ and the speaker opened the week with the basic, though important, challenge to go. My friend Tim caught up with me afterward and asked me what I’d thought, and I replied, “Honestly, I’m still thinking about it.” (That’s become my default answer on everything from rhetorical questions in class to marriage proposals–I’m a human Dell when it comes to information processing).
As I was sitting in chapel, I felt a constant sense of, “Yes, but–“. . .
The message to go is an incredibly important one–but I become a bit concerned when it is put in a vacuum, divorced from the broader “why” of the Gospel message*. Sure, we can go because we are commanded to do so. But I worry that if our sole reason for going is obedience, we may be missing a large part of the point. What message are we spreading to others if we go to them with the underlying message, “I came because I had to”?
I don’t want to devalue the role of obedience in a Christian’s life. But my fear is that we may emphasize obedience to the exclusion of relationship. God wants our obedience and allegiance, certainly–but He wants that to stem from our understanding of His goodness, as evidenced by His love for us. Look at 1 John 2:3–“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” Obedience flows from relationship; God wants us to be rooted and established in His love, not our own obedience.
I’m concerned that the mere call to go might send people forth armed with a crippled sense of the God whom they purport to serve, not to mention a slew of poor motives: obligation, guilt, attempts to appease God or earn His favor, hatred of one’s passport country (MKs, what?!), even a smug conviction that “I’m right, and the rest of the world is wrong.”
The reason we go is because we have heard. Do we understand that? Are we sharing these truths because our hearts have been transfigured by them? Have we been loved so that we may love? Is our message one of hope and healing, or do we have to utilize fear tactics and hell to get people to convert? I absolutely believe in hell (here’s looking at you, Rob Bell!), but if the only inducement we have to encourage people to come to Christ is that in doing so they can score a get-out-of-hell-free card, we’re missing the depth and breadth of God’s character and the story of redemption.
So I would add just one thing to the emphasis of this week: Go with an understanding of the God you serve–His love, His grace, the freedom you can find in Him, the knowledge of His pursuit of the sinner. Go because you know what it’s like to watch Him redeem the nastiest parts of your soul. Go because you’ve been rooted and established in love, and you want others to have the same experience. Go, because it breaks your heart that someone might not have a chance to experience the joy of knowing Him. Go, because streams of living water flow forth from you that cannot possibly be contained.
*For the record, I have not been able to attend most of the sessions this week, so it is very possible that this message has been or will be further fleshed out throughout the rest of the week.