My wife and I were out recently with another couple who brought up the topic of human trafficking. They were asking about the problem and where it was most prevalent. As I began to answer the questions and reveal some statistics, one of them brought the conversation to a quick close. She said whenever she see’s reports about trafficking on television, she just closes her eyes and turns away because it is too disgusting and horrible to even think about. For too many, this is the default response. Even among those who profess to be Christians, it is far easier to cover our eyes than to look at some of the horrors of this world.
Missions vs. Mission
Many of us grew up with the perception that missions was the work of a select few who would work among the people in foreign countries and tell them about God. These missionaries were a group of super-Christians who marched to the beat of a different drummer and somehow seemed to always have a slide projector in their back pocket. Daron Earlewine, one of the pastors at my fellowship, recently said something I found quite challenging. He said that we have gotten it all wrong, and that we need to drop the “s” off of missions so all we are left with is the word “mission”. This is not for a select few; there is no such class as a super-Christian. For too long we have sat idly by watching others carry out the great commission, going out into all the world while we have sat huddled within the glow of our televisions and the warmth of our homes. If we would be followers of Jesus, we must walk out our front door and into the world. We must tell people about the love of Jesus and invite them to receive the baptism of His Spirit into their lives so they too can experience the love of Christ and join in His mission.
Everyone has a mission field; everyone is called, but few respond. The usual objection is that there are enough hurting people around us, so we do not need to go to foreign countries. Jesus said to go out into the entire world, and it’s true that your street is part of that world. The question then becomes, how are you carrying out the mission of Jesus in the place in which you live? If we grant that we don’t have to go into the diverse places of the planet, that we need to serve those in our immediate surroundings, then much is expected of us right where we are. It has been my experience that those who say they don’t need to go out because there is so much work to be done all around them, never seem to get to doing that work. Once satisfied with their excuse, they are content to once again insulate themselves from the very need to which they drew attention. We are all called to tell everyone about the love of Jesus; no exemptions have been granted. There are no exceptions to serving others in His name. It’s true that we all have different gifts and abilities, but every one of us can be a reflection of the love of God. Every one of us can point others to Christ.
Jesus came to earth with the mission of redeeming a sinful and flawed people. He came to serve those who were proud, to touch those who were sick and to feed those who were hungry. He came to show compassion to the weak and suffering, to bring justice to the abused and outcast. This is the mission of Jesus, the one He commanded His followers to continue to carry out when He ascended into Heaven. Two thousand years later we have relegated His command to a select few out of selfishness and convenience. We have convinced ourselves that it is the work of someone else to go and share the love of Christ to those who have never heard his name. Meanwhile we stew in our affluence, bathing in our own self righteousness, convinced if we will simply write a check every so often that we have fulfilled our duty before the Lord. God does not need your money, He needs your life. When we gave our hearts to Jesus, we surrendered our life to Him; we gave up all our dreams and aspirations so that we might pursue His plan for the world. At some point we turned away from our convictions and have decided that the American dream is more worth pursuing than the Kingdom of God; how foolish, and how ridiculous is that to actually admit? Are we seriously convinced that anything on this earth is worth more than the smallest piece of Heaven?
Jesus died for your sins and for mine; He suffered for you and for me. We – each one of us who have accepted Christ – have chosen to follow Him and to do the things He told us to do. If we are serious about following Jesus, then our life is no longer our own. We are now His hands and His feet, and our passion is solely for Him. To follow the instructions of Christ must be our driving passion; it’s what makes us come alive. Jesus said to take the message of His love into the entire world. This is more than just missions work for a few; this is the mission for us all.
Be an Action Hero
Who doesn’t love an action hero? I grew up a huge fan of Spider Man. When I was quite young, I even wanted to be Spider Man when I grew up. It really didn’t take too long to realize that probably was not going to be in the cards for me, given the shortage of radioactive spiders and such! Yet still, there remains a certain fascination with action heroes. We spend billions of dollars each year to watch movies and read books about these inspiring characters. We vicariously revel in the triumph of good over evil, and in seeing wrongs righted by the hero or the heroine. As we mature, most of us release the dream of becoming an action hero. I think this is a huge mistake. As followers of Jesus, we have the opportunity to be action heroes (or heroines) every day of our lives.
Jesus calls us to right the wrongs of society and to bring justice to those in need. Just as the Bible is full of stories of action heroes (think Noah, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul for starters), the world is still full of action heroes. Richard Stearns (president of World Vision), Bono, Tom White (President of the Voice of the Martyrs), Brad Phillips (President of Persecution Project) and many, many others are still doing the work of true religion: caring for the orphans and widows, breaking the chains of injustice, freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and caring for the poor. (James 1:27; Isaiah 58:6-7). Mother Theresa, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. were all action heroes. They were heroic because they took action to share God’s love with the world and to call us all to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ.
To be an action hero, you must do more than simply talk a good game. We must embody the things we say; we must demonstrate our commitment to Jesus. No matter how good we are at communicating our message or encouraging others to follow Christ, what ultimately matters is if we perform the very actions that we talk about. Do we take action or merely talk about doing so? This is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. The extraordinary put action behind their words; they became action heroes because of their passion for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.
We must live up to the words we say. We must deliver on our commitment to following Jesus. Action heroes do not become so by providing only lip service. They are passionate about their beliefs and in bringing justice to the world. If you would be an action hero, practice the behaviors you espouse before opening your mouth. Become known for what you do and not what you say. Nothing is ever accomplished without action of some sort. Redemption is available to us because Christ performed the action of dying on the cross. In that same spirit, we must now take action to make that redemption known to everyone around us. The road to Hell is lined with good intentions and dreams, and with those who failed to act upon them.
When it’s all said and done, when are lives are over and we must give an account to our Creator for how we lived the life He entrusted to us, all that will ultimately matter will be the actions we took. Did we trust Him, did we love Him and did we share that love with others? Did we feed the hungry, care for the poor and come to the aid of the widows, the single moms, the orphans and the homeless? Did we care more for others than we did ourselves, and did our checkbooks reflect that concern? It’s not hard to be a hero for God. It’s simply a matter of taking action for His kingdom; it’s being the hands and feet of Jesus. Are you an action hero? You know you want to be, and now you know you can be. Be extraordinary for Jesus; put your faith into action. Become an action hero.