"Are you a m!ss!onary?!?"

May 4, 2010 — Leave a comment
Before I moved overseas, no one used to ever ask me this, but now the question comes up from time to time–usually when I’m back in the states. Occasionally the person says the word as if it is synonymous with being a saint. But more often, the person says it like a slur or an accusation, like Gollum talking about Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings: “hobbitses–nasty creatures”.

Either way, the assumption is if you live overseas and profess to be follow Jesus, you must be one. Why else would you be living overseas? [well, for all the reasons other people do, except for easy access to illegal substances].

When someone says the word with a sneer, they may think that no one should go share their faith, that free speech doesn’t include talking about Jesus. Or they may think of people who imposed their culture with imperialistic superiority and therefore think the whole enterprise is flawed [but using that logic would suggest there should also be no bankers, no lawyers, no used car salesmen, no politicians etc.]

I confess that the withering sneer in their question can make me relieved that I can honestly answer “No, I’m not.” The person usually nods approvingly, assured that I am on the side of respectability and tolerance, and may still be viewed as their friend. But I need to come up with a better answer.

Geography has always gone hand in hand with the gospel.
Pop quiz
In the gospels, people followed Jesus because:
a) they walked by his carpenter shop and liked His furniture
b) a little bird told them
c) they were Jews and all Jews followed Jesus
d) they were born that way
e) Jesus traveled around, spoke in their villages and invited people to follow Him.

Although I knew Jesus went from place to place, I didn’t fully grasp how peripatetic Jesus was until I had a good look at the map of His ministry in the back of my Bible. He walked up and down and all around Galilee and Samaria and Judaea and Phoenicia and Perea, an area about the size of New Hampshire. And his disciples followed him.

After the resurrection, Jesus changed his disciples [which means follower or learner] to apostles [which means one sent forth as a messenger]. Sending people out to share the good news is part of what following Jesus is all about. Every one who believes in Jesus does so because someone somewhere was sent to share the good news to a different culture. Not every follower is sent but every follower is part of the enterprise because without messengers, the good news doesn’t get passed on.

And telling people about God’s message and work didn’t start with Jesus. As you read through the Old Testament, it’s amazing to see how often we’re instructed to share what God has done for us to the nations.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. [Isaiah 2:4]

One generation will commend Your works to another. They will tell of Your might acts, They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.
[Psalm 145:4]

There has always been trouble talking about God’s reconciliation.
Jesus was run out of town more than once. People tried to kill Him. When they succeeded and the apostles took over, it didn’t get any better. Today there’s an estimated 60 countries where it is officially illegal to share the gospel [putting the activity right there next to prostitution and thievery.]

Even in countries where it is legal, sharing the message is not always popular. Sometimes people take issue with the methods [and certainly badgering, nagging, and insisting is not something Jesus or the apostles ever did.] And people find the message itself offensive:

Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites. [Acts 2:38-39]

But when the religious leaders commanded Peter not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus he said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:19-20

The next time someone asks me, I’ll give the full answer:
“No, I haven’t been sent out but I’m thankful for the people who shared the good news of how Jesus died for my sins to reconcile me to God. Everyone should be free to hear this message, without pressure or coercion, and decide for themselves.”

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