One of the realizations I've made working with various mission organizations and churches over the past ten years is that there is quite a diversity of views related to what people consider to be the core mission of the Church. Some say it's simply the unequivocal proclamation of the saving message of Jesus (That is, the proclamation of the Gospel). Others feel it's that, YES!, plus some form of discipleship afterwards (teaching and training others in the ways of Jesus). For others, it's that—Gospel and Discipleship—plus caring for the practical needs of the poor, and or engaging in some kind of marketplace ministry, etc. There are obviously various cultural, denominational and theological reasons for the diversity of views. I won't get into that now. But what form should our Christian ministry really take?
What Christians globally would agree on, however, is the fact that our mission today cannot be separated from the words and ministry of Jesus Christ— whose life and ministry constitute the very foundation of our entire movement. We cannot deny that at some point in Jesus' life, He defines our new life and mission in simple terms. He says something in the likes of; loving God with our whole being and loving others as ourselves (paraphrased, see Luke 10:27). It seems like a helpful simplification/clarification of our mission. But is it?
But just as we often struggle with the complexities of our diverse views on mission, are we also struggling with the seeming oversimplification of our task?
The confusion often lies in the fact that many Christians aren't too sure which form our "love for others" or "love for God" should take. In other words, "How do we live in a way that marks our lives as 'lovers of God' and 'lovers of others?' A question we all (Christians or non-Christians) need to take VERY seriously if our lives on earth will bear God's redemptive marks for all eternity!
Here's a little bit of help!
In the same context where Jesus offers this simplified clarification of our ongoing Christian mandate (quoted above from Luke's 10), someone asks him a similar question to what many are asking today: But, Jesus, who is my neighbour? Is my neighbour, someone who lives near my physical building, a colleague at work, a stranger in the park or a friend at school? In response, Jesus provides a beautiful story as his illustrative example of what this could mean practically. The story is what many now call, "the Good Samaritan," a story many of us are familiar with (see Luke 10:30-37).
As I said, He offered this story as an illustration to the Lawyer who had, like many of us, enquired about what 'loving others' (or in some cases loving God) meant practically. So what does that story mean to you today?
Here's a simple conclusion to this conversation: whichever form our Christian mission takes, it must, of biblical necessity, resemble the ministry of this generous Samaritan. Meaning, amongst other things, we must serve the beaten, broken, battered, marginalized and forgotten as this man did for that dude on the street. It is that simple.
And before we try to 'spiritualize' the meaning of all these texts in articulating our Christian mission, here is some balance to consider.
Jesus, a few chapters before this story in Luke, spoke of his own Messianic mission in terms similar to that of the Good Samaritan (See Luke 4:16-21). He says his mission is directed at the poor, the broken-hearted, the imprisoned, the helpless, the blind etc. James in James 2:14 also offers us an important warning to Christians, which often throws many Protestant Christians off kilter...when he says, "faith without works is dead."
If Faith without works is dead, then "[Christian] mission without social compassion and Justice is biblically deficient." (The words of Christ Wright, The Mission of God, chapter 4)
At this time, my heart is going out to those struck by the Global Pandemic. It's a unique time. The events unfolding with the COVID-19 epidemic are not just impacting individuals; it's impacting entire families, workplaces and Churches and everyone all over the world. In times like these, we are reminded, even more, reminded of what it means to be a Child of God, what it means to be God's Ambassador of Compassion. We are forced to ask, "in which ways can we be instruments of God's compassion and Grace to others at a time of crisis like this one?"
There are, however, individual steps we can take (both to show Compassion to our vessel as a human by keeping it safe), but then there are also ways you could join other collective efforts. It's a unique situation because we will also need to be wise about what we can and cannot do, considering the restrictions surrounding public gatherings etc. The question then is, "Who may we be able to support at this time?"
As we know, crises like these impact different groups of people differently depending on their economic, social, emotional and spiritual health. But when we think of Compassion, we are forced to think mainly about the vulnerable.
How is God calling you to Love your neighbour and to Love Him (God) with all your heart?
Is this task too simple or too complex for you?