Friday, March 5, 2010

The UnMissionary Among Us

Their numbers are growing. They do what they do because they sense God’s purpose in their actions. They are serving people. They are serving Him.

They are my friends who are scattered among the nations and involved in projects destined to help people out of oppressive conditions, raise awareness of the connection between our purchases and the conditions in which commodities were produced, eliminate social injustices, provide healthcare to those who have inadequate access to or resources for that care, ensure clean water and basic nutrition for those living in poverty. Listing all their projects is impossible.

These friends are not perceived by many as ‘missionaries.’ In some instances, they would be endangered were that title used of them in the places where they serve. They are friends like Shannon Hopkins, who shares a brief video insight below, working in various vocational domains. Their work may not be linked directly to a denominational agency or a sending church. They have simply followed what they believe to be the mandate of Jesus to live the character of His Kingdom for the good of those He loves. They try to do what they believe is morally right in a world gone wrong. And they believe that moral right is a spiritual concern: God’s Kingdom on earth.

Western Christians tend to view social concerns for either environment or marginalized people as extraneous to the Gospel. While they might indicate these concerns as important, in their minds they pale beside the significance of preaching the Gospel. The latter is of eternal Kingdom significance, the former of transitory consequence. One is ultimate, the other temporary. But is that characterization right? Does Jesus care less about the physical condition in which a person lives than He does about the eternal destiny? Is it not in the love of Christ expressed here that individuals grasp the redeeming eternal love He has sacrificed on their behalf. We tend to segment where God aggregates; secular/spiritual verses wholly sacred. Jesus spoke a deep mystery in Matthew 25 when He said, “What you have done to one of the least of these, you have done to me.” I do not understand his mystical identification with the marginalized, but I do believe it.

Jesus spoke one of the longest lists He ever gave in that passage: hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, in prison. It was with people in these conditions that He identified. And He indicates that caring ministry afforded these people, is ministry to Him.

It is past time that we begin identifying as part of God’s eternal mission compassionate services that
• eliminate hunger,
• provide clean water,
• enable financial capacity to provide clothes,
• seek cures for diseases rather than just treatment of symptoms, and
• seek justice for all who are oppressed.

It is past time that we understand those giving themselves in these projects as missionaries. Although that title may be insignificant to them, they are worthy of our financial support and our prayerful concern. Not every person doing such ministries is doing so in response to the sending of God. But for those who are, they epitomize the Kingdom mission of God.

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