***This post was originally posted on the Women’s Life blog April 21, 2016.
We hear about some missionaries who have gone to the furthest reaches of the earth and others who have gone down the street. Maybe you find yourself asking, “What is my role in God’s mission?” Many of us, though, don’t like that question.
Some of us are afraid because we feel the call of God in our lives and we know that obedience means packing boxes, learning a new language, and settling into a new culture. He has called us to be his missionaries, taking his message to a foreign land. And it may not be safe.
Others of us are called to live here, but experience another culture through short term mission trips. And we’ve heard the calling for a long time, but have ignored it, placing our American desire for security over the call to go.
Others have been wrestling with the call of God to go to the nations around us. Refugees, international students, and immigration have all resulted in the nations next door. We are afraid to let down our walls and welcome them. Opening our home to those who are different can be messy.
Some are waiting until we have fulfilled our life goals. We think, “Once I’m married, have a couple of kids, and have a certain amount of retirement saved up, I’ll go.” To go now would mean relinquishing control of our lives.
I am a missiologist. I study missions trends. I read missions stories. I hope to be on the foreign mission field someday. But daily I face the idols of control and security. The American dream falsely tells us that we can be secure if we plan better, build bigger walls, and live our lives in certain ways. We are sold the illusion of control. But what if God is calling us to something different?
In the fairy tale-like story, “Once Upon a Time,” by Nadine Gordimer, a couple and their son try to live happily ever after in their safe suburb. As they hear about horrendous things that happen outside of their suburb and worry about the different kinds of people around them, they fight back, not by facing their fears or meeting the people, but by building higher walls, putting up more fences, and installing state-of-the-art alarm systems.
But while they hide behind their walls, their young son reads about princes and dragons and fairy-tale endings.
Finally, they decide to invest in razor wire, for surely this will keep them safe. But their son continues to read fairy tales and one day, he goes into the razor wire, pretending that he will save the princess. And the thing that was meant to keep him safe and secure kills him. In trying to secure their lives, the family loses the thing most dear to them.
We like to believe that we are in control of our own destinies, but the Bible teaches a very different story. We are players, not in our own drama, but in God’s. We seek after God’s mission, not our own. We are given specific roles to play, but God Himself is the main character. C. S. Lewis describes the character of God well in his beloved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lucy asks the beaver, “Is he (Aslan)–quite safe?” And the beaver’s response is, “Safe? . . . Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Jesus proclaims, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:25). There is this seemingly backwards economy that requires us to let go of our control and security for Christ’s sake. If we hold onto our lives, we lose them. If we give them away for Christ, we save them.
As we realize these truths about the God we serve, we are called to get outside our walls of security and control. In the story, the couple responded to their fears, not by facing them, but by building higher walls. But this good God we follow calls us, His church, to dream bigger, to scale our own walls and to face the very gates of hell. And he promises that those gates will not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18).
Some of you are called to cross cultural and linguistic boundaries. Go and make disciples. Others are called to stay here, but go on short term trips. Go and make disciples. Maybe you are called to engage the nations around you. Or help refugees. Or meet your neighbor. No matter what the specifics, you are called to the risky venture of making disciples.
But with all the risk, why go? Why make disciples? Because God calls us to his mission, his wild, dangerous, glorious mission in which we face our fears, follow our commander (God Himself), pursue the lost, and sacrifice our security for the sake of Christ, whose example we follow.