Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Missionary Quandry

  Let's say you knew of a family serving as church planters in the heart of Africa.  You got on a plane and flew to the nearest  airport, then got on a bus and rode to the bottom of the  mountain, then walked two hours  to their village.  When you got to their dwelling place, what would  you expect to find?  What sort of  spirituality would  you anticipate? These are people who have left all  for the  cause of Christ.Would you be disappointed if the  missionary's wife was a big fan of  reality TV and spent hours watching it or discussing it on  Facebook? Would you be horrified at how much attention the missionary's kids paid to the  newest fashions or the latest celebrity  gossip?  Would you be repulsed at the missionary's devotion to  team sports or the amount of time he  had invested in   this hobby or that? Would you be shocked  by the music they listen to or their leisure reading? What if their prayer life was infrequent and cold?  What if they only read their Bible every once in a great while? Would you feel like these people had been given a  huge job to do and instead  occupied their hearts and minds with  vapid nonsense?    You would be correct, but then again, what makes them any different from you?
   I have heard people say things like " I can't believe so and so did that. After all, he's a preacher."  What does that have to do with anything?  How about "I can't believe so and so did that, because Jesus Christ washed away his sins in his own blood, gave him a new life and an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled!"  Yes, I understand that the elders are  told in Timothy to be an "example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." but that doesn't mean all non-elders have the green light to live that they just crawled out of the  jungle.  After all, the Bible says "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity"  and "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;", and the idea that I can  or even should live  however I want just because I am  in a slightly less visible part of the body is the height of folly.
  There is a mindset that says that God expects certain things from certain people serving in certain capacities, and that everybody else is off the hook.  The missionary is supposed to think about Jesus all the time, but  surely God wouldn't expect that  from me because I'm not a missionary.  My pastor is supposed to be right with God, but I can harbor secret sin because I'm not the pastor.  The Sunday school teacher is expected to  read his Bible, but since I'm not a Sunday school teacher, I can do it or not do it at my leisure.  If the deacon isn't a witness then shame on him, but what if I haven't been  a witness in weeks? 
  Most of us, if we saw in a foreign missionary the level of devotion to the cause of Christ that we see in our own lives, would dismiss that missionary as not being serious about the job God has given them.  Most of us, if we saw a missionary  pre-occuppied with the things that we are pre-occuppied by, would really feel like the fellow had lost his focus.  The idea is that they are supposed to be super-spiritual and we are allowed to be  carnal slugs because after all, they have been given an enormous job to fill, and well my role in the body of Christ doesn't require that sort of  dedication.
  I submit to you that not only are you also a missionary, but that you have no right to expect a level of devotion from others that you are unwilling to  live by yourself.  Our level of devotion to the cause of Christ doesn't flow from the particular  field of service we've been given, but rather from the fact that we are saved. He really does deserve our love, our affection, and our lives. There are, in biblical Christianity, no  big Christians and little Christians, for the Bible says "ye are all brethren".  The man in the mud hut in Africa is no more a missionary than you are because the  Scripture compels us all to "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel". That "ye" isn't  a certain select group or caste of men  who must leave their homes and go to the Congo or the Orient. That "ye" includes those who must leave their  homes and go to school or work or the  market.  The devotion required for a  family to  labor in Mongolia is the same devotion required for a family to  labor in Missouri.  The personal relationship with Jesus that will get someone through a dry period while sojourning in Ireland will get you through  dry times in Indiana. It is the same thing that God expects and deserves out of all of us.

 
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