16 Oct Biblical Perspectives on Mission
Mission is rooted in the nature of God, who sends and saves His people. The Bible narrates about God as the one who enters into human history and reconciles with fallen humanity, redeems and re-establishes His relationship with His creation. God is a missionary God, who sends His messengers to make known His love. He calls individuals and people groups to witness Him in different periods of history. God took the initiative to draw humankind to Himself through various agents such as, individuals, priest and prophets. However, people still fall short from His plan and purpose; they doubt Him and fall into the clutches of evil forces. Hence, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to save humankind from the bondage of sin. Even today, God is still calling individuals to accomplish His mission to witness Him to the people who have not yet heard about his love. Therefore, mission is the foundation of the Christian faith, and the good news of salvation is for every people, nation, tribe, and tongue.
Mission as Foundation of Christian Faith
The first book of the Bible narrates about the God who took the initiative to search humankind, calling them when Adam and Eve disobeyed God saying “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9). He continually seeks to reconcile with His creation. God reveals Himself to Abraham and makes a covenant with him and his offspring. The Great Commission of the Old Testament declares: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). The promise to Abraham implied an invitation for Israel to spread the Good news. God calls Moses and sends him to liberate the people of Israel from the bondage of slavery so that Israel will come to know Him and worship Him. Israelites as a community were chosen by God to represent Him to people of other faith. But, the chosen people of Israel have failed to live according to what they have been called. The Bible records that they have defiled the name of God, following the god of other nations as well. As believers in Christ, we are called to live for Him. Mission was the rhythm of the early church, no matter what they faced. Every Christian has the responsibility to spread the good news in words and deeds.
God’s Mission is Inclusive
God’s mission is inclusive and the notion of cross cultural mission is found in the book of Jonah. God sent Jonah to preach about repentance to the people of Nineveh, who were the enemies of Israel. The people of Israel during the time of King Jehu had to pay tribute to the Assyrian king. Israel was threatened by the Assyrians for less than a century. But, God’s love and compassion transcended barriers and boundaries and extended even to the enemies of his chosen people. His love and forgiveness is boundless and beyond comprehension. In the case of Jonah, the Ninevites were the people who had over-powered and exploited his people. Perhaps, some may justify the reason why Jonah ran away from the assigned task. Jonah might have expected God to destroy the people of Nineveh. Jonah failed to understand the mission of God. Possibly, as believers in Christ, we may have the same attitudes to those who persecute us because of our faith. Furthermore, it is difficult to serve people of different culture and religious background. The story of Jonah reminds us of the depth of God’s love to every people group, race, caste, creed and colour because His mission is inclusive.
The Awareness of the ‘calling’ and the Mission of ‘sending’
The message of ‘calling’ and ‘sending’ is the driving force behind Christian “mission.” The people of Israel are called to be the light of the nations. In the Bible we read that Isaiah is aware of God’s call and the need to be the messenger of God to every people group. The prophet heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Despite his sense of inadequacy, he offered himself for God’s service saying “Here am I! Send me.” Prophet Isaiah’s mission was to communicate the word of God and call people to repentance. God’s presence was with Isaiah as he sent him to convey this message to the israelites: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness”
(Isa. 42: 6-7).
The success of Christian mission is the realization of the presence of God in the life of the one who works on His behalf. Jesus’ commission of sending, states the similar tone saying ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ God assures his messengers his abiding presence because without his presence all our proclamation and service is futile.
The Mission of God in Jesus Christ
In the New Testament God’s mission emerges in the life and ministry of Jesus. God sent His only Son as a missionary into the world to save and redeem humankind and all creation. The emphasis of John 3:16 is on ‘God’, who loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, portraying the very nature of God. Jesus’ mission is to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” Jesus calls the disciples to “follow” him and he calls them to be fishermen. Jesus then “sends” his disciples, empowered them with his very authority and commissioned them to “make disciples of all the nations.” This mission is universal in scope. Jesus emphasizes the divine injunction to his course of action saying that ‘he came to do his Father’s will’. Jesus not only engaged himself in the mission of the Father, but also invited his disciples to continue his mission. Mission is the purpose of God, he empowers them with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Luke writes: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The mission of Jesus is holistic as it encompasses all human needs such as physical, social and spiritual.
The Mission of Paul as Tent Maker
The book of Acts 9-12 narrates about the life of Paul. As a conservative Jew, his mission was to persecute the followers of Christ; but, the dramatic encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus changed his perspectives and he became a missionary for Christ. Paul was an itinerant missionary who travelled from Antioch to Jerusalem, then to Syria and Cilicia. He travelled to Ephesus and sailed to Macedonia, and went by foot to Greece and Corinth. His zeal was to make people know the risen Lord. The book of Acts 18:1-4 describes that Paul was a tent maker by trade. Paul supports himself and his ministry by making tents. He also provides financial support to people who are economically poor (Acts 20:33-35) with his income. The book of Acts recorded Paul’s ministry along with some women who supported him in one way or the other. As for instance, Dorcas (Acts 9:32-43) in social ministry: Lydia from Philippi in leading a house church (Acts 16:11-14); Priscilla, with her husband involved in teaching ministry (Acts 18:2, 18:26); Phoebe a deaconess, doing the church ministry. Timothy and John Mark worked side by side with Paul. Hence, Tent making has become a common metaphor for Christians who engage in their secular profession and support the ministry.
We live in a time where the secular culture and politics have influenced Christian organizations and Churches. The concept of world missions has gradually become paralyzed. In addition, the idea of Christian mission is vaguely understood by the Church and individual Christian. Today, even in a so-called Christian states and nations they do not know who Jesus is. In the context of India, missionaries are being threatened and persecuted; and, the Fundamental Rights to profess one’s religion is being curtailed. Despite, of all the obstacles and challenges before us God is active in human history. He is searching for someone ‘to repair the wall and stand in the gap for him’ to fulfil his divine purpose.
Dr. Enolyne Lyngdoh was a former Staff worker of UESI-NE based at Imphal in 1996 (Manipur) and after her completion of her BD based in Dibrugarh (Assam). She joined as National Staff and was based in Gangtok (2004-2007). She further went on her study in Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology in the Old Testament and served as faculty at John Roberts Theological College Shillong Meghalaya. At present, she is the Chairperson of the mission Cell, UESI