Missions have always been important to me. Some of my earliest memories are sitting at church in a group known as "Mission Friends." I started taking mission trips as soon as I was able and haven't looked back.
In my role as a pastor, I have tried to pass this passion on to those God has given me the priveledge to serve. By God's grace there have been several who have developed a heart for missions. It is exciting to see their enthusiasm grow and their faces shine as they return, eager for the next opportunity.
This morning, my heart was stirred as I read my Bible. I usually post my thoughts about my readings on Twitter. However, this morning I needed more than 140 characters.
I am reading through the New Testament with our students. This mornings reading was in . To be honest, this thought actually began in chapter 20. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit has testified to him that he faces "imprisonment and afflictions." (Acts 20:20) As he moves closer to Jerusalem, more and more people testify that this is the case. Finally a prophet named Agabus demonstrates with Paul's belt the way he would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul's friends respond the way we would expect:
"When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem." (Acts 21:12)
This is one of those "we" passages in Acts where Luke, the writer of the book, places himself in the narrative. Even he desired for Paul to stop his trip to Jerusalem. All of those who loved Paul dearly did not want him to go because of the great danger involved. And here is Paul's reply:
"Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)
Their love was dear to him. Their concern overwhelming. And yet all of their concern was not enough to make him turn back from the path God had placed before him. And so Paul went and by the end of chapter 21 he has been beaten and is in the custody of the Romans.
God does not call us to go on vacation. He calls us to go on mission. To be on mission is to go to those who are hostile to the Gospel. This hostility may be civilized (a polite, "no thanks") or it may even be physically violent. It also means quite often leaving our comfort zone and place of perceived safety. When we contemplate this, those who love us are rightly concerned about us. If they weren't, we would have to question their love. Sometimes they are like Paul's companions and beg us not to go.
This can place us in a very precarious situation. Are they God's way of telling us that we may not need to go? Are they voices that love us greatly yet stand with Paul's companions, "breaking our hearts" but not in-line with God's call?
Though I do not believe that there are easy answers to these questions, I think that if we think Biblicaly, we can find a direction that is Christ-honoring and at least somewhat comforting to our loved ones. Tomorrow I will present some of my thoughts on this.