There are a few often misunderstood scriptures that actually don’t exist in the Bible. Many Christians operate as though God commanded us to stay clear away from sinners. There are others that think that getting dirty and being active in the world is also a big no-no. Even though we have examples of Jesus doing the exact opposite, we have these theories that being near sin is a ghastly offense.
On the other hand, we have folks that love the world a little too much. These people are ready and willing to jump right in, and possibly partake a little along the way. Some don’t love the world at all and some love it, perhaps, in excess. They feel its hurtful or too difficult to stick to the word of God, so they adjust as needed.
What Jesus did was love people. He got near. He was involved. He showed compassion. And here is the wonder of it all… He didn’t change who He was in the process. He was a light to the world. A light isn’t effective if it simply becomes yet another shadow. He designed us to carry His light into the dark places of the world. It is there He is desperately needed. Another shadow in the darkness is not only useless, its unnoticed and insignificant.
Jesus didn’t condemn the sinner, He loved them. And His love compelled them to follow Him. The odd part is that each of us has this same story to tell. We were sinners plain and simple. Lost. And then we received the unbelievable love of Jesus and developed a relationship with Him. Now we walk with Him and bask in His forgiveness, grace, and salvation. Why do we get so mixed up about others on a different part of the journey than we are? Why can’t we see others that are simply a step or two earlier than we are on the journey? Didn’t we need grace? Don’t we need mercy? So does everyone else!
We can’t share Jesus through judgement. We can’t share Jesus through our own sin. We share Jesus by shining His light and never adjusting the brightness. I believe people adopted to Jesus so quickly because they weren’t used to people who rolled up their sleeves without changing their mission. Jesus did both. He climbed into the pit with them, but never stepped away from the Father. He subjected Himself to their sorrows but never lost hope and never once compromised His mission.
Mission is important. Therein lies a few other misunderstandings. When I was growing up, missionaries were highly revered. People believed God’s call to go into all the world meant hopping on a plane and learning a new language and adopting a whole new culture. This is scary business and, quite honestly, most of us aren’t equipped for this.
So we did what we always do… we made the scripture mean what we wanted it to. Instead of becoming missionaries, we donated money. This way, we supported God’s command without actually having to deal with any of the messy or complex bits of it all. You go do missions and I’ll write a check. Now we are both obeying God.
False! On both fronts, really. First of all, missionary work is not an elective. It is a command to all of us. Where we usually get it wrong is where missions happen. “Go into all the world…”. Where is all the world? Is your county included in all of the world? Yes. Is your town? Is your village? Is your neighborhood? Is your school? Is your job? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. You don’t have to step on a plane to advance the gospel.
The second issue is the notion that our checks carry more weight than our personal relationship with Jesus and the testimony He provides to share with others. We can’t minister by proxy. The gospel isn’t promoted by outsourcing. While missionary work in the global sense is a fantastic ministry for some, it isn’t for everyone. Some of us are meant to travel the world and adopt to rigorous schedules, conditions, and stress. Some of us, were built from the ground up, by a perfect God, to stay right where we are and preach the good news to our hometown.
Right there in black and white the scriptures tell us we can’t all be eyes, or ears, or noses. The body of Christ is made from multiple unique gifts and responsibilities. If we all get up and flock to the borders, no one will be left to share God’s love in our home towns.
Check out the photo above. I own the image. I took it myself (It’s not fancy, and barely in focus, but I used my own phone while on a walk and the copyright belongs to me). If I didn’t, I’d have to track down the owner. I’d need to get their permission. I’d likely have to pay money and obtain usage rights. I’d have to give credit somewhere on the page and follow usage policies.
What a pain. I don’t have to do any of that when it’s my image. I can just use it whenever, wherever and however I want. When it’s your story… when it’s your conviction… when it’s your Savior you are sharing, all of that changes.
When you own the image, God gets the credit, God gives the permission, and He paid the price. We can’t share the gospel with someone else’s story. We can’t just support missionaries. We are the missionary… and we have a job to do. We have to be Jesus, just like Jesus was, in every situation and location we encounter. We are a duck among geese and we are meant to forever keep our duckness.