Sunday, 31 July 2011
Authentic Mission and the love of God.
Christian Mission springs from the very heart of the Godhead. Regarding the ‘love of God’ as perhaps the overriding motive for mission it contains at least three elements all of which are significant.
Firstly, God’s love for us,
Secondly, our love for God which is proved by our obedience to God "If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14.15), and
Thirdly God’s love working through us to others.
The love of the missionary God is seen in the tremendous act of the Father giving up his only begotten son in the incarnation, and his son being willing to come and live a life of self sacrifice and ultimately to die on the cross for mankind e.g. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son (John 3.16).
John also states that ‘we love because he first loved us’(1 John 4.19). If our response is to truly love Christ in return, Jesus tells us we will obey his commands and God will live in us. God therefore expects disciples of Christ to be motivated by the love of God. His love has been poured out in our hearts (Rom.5.5) and Jesus who commanded us to love one another, also promised that if we obeyed him the world would know that we were his (John 13.34-35).
The love that Jesus spoke of was much more than just an emotional feeling which would come and go, but was an act of the will and also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal.5.1) It was also what compelled Paul in his mission (2 Cor.5.14). Christ had also told the disciples ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’(John 20.21) As disciples we are obliged to follow his example.
In a similar manner our love for God must be shown in ‘incarnational mission’, that is identifying with the people we seek to reach, entering into their worlds, their pains and their sorrows. Like Christ we must seek and save that which was lost.
Having an holistic approach ( a mission not only of words of which evangelicals emphasize,but also with good works, acts of kindness, fighting for justice for the weak and disenfranchised) to mission and being motivated by the love of God would certainly limit the abuses towards those we seek to reach.
The Crusades and Inquisitions are a blight on the history of the Church and for that we must hold our heads in shame, but also the imperialistic and triumphalistic attitudes of the present day Church are equally a denial of the love of God. It is here that the definition of evangelism as 'one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread' is apt. We have nothing that we have not received freely from God. Freely we have received let us freely give.
If we are motivated by this love surely our natural response will be to share it with others and join with Wesley's heart cry:
Oh that the world might taste and see
the riches of His grace
The arms of love that compass me
would all mankind embrace