Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Go Forth And Shut Up: Thinking About The Mission And Evangelism In An Age Of Religious VIolence

After the most recent incidents of anti-Muslim violence in the Chicago metro area, as well as some interesting claims made by friends of mine on Facebook, I have started to think unsettling thoughts about a central tenet of the Christian tradition.  The call placed in the mouth of Jesus at the end of St. Matthew's Gospel to make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Trinity, is the heart of the evangelical, missional imperative that propelled John Wesley and those who live in his tradition.

To ignore the reality that this call has been answered in ways that are little short of cultural and actual genocide, however, is to ignore reality.

Ours is an age my wife described so well last night as she and I talked about this issue: Our world is becoming smaller, and as we come in to contact with others, we are growing less accepting, less tolerant, more prone to lash out at differences rather than live with them.  We live in a world in which it is easier to set up labels for all sorts of groups and individuals rather than deal with each as they are in all their complexity and reality.  Part of that acceptance includes accepting that other people live marvelous, happy, productive, faith-filled lives without accepting, or perhaps even hearing, the Christian Gospel.

Yet, the Great Commission and the evangelical imperative sits there, as much a question mark as exclamation point on our lives.  How can we not live telling our story to the nations?  How can we remain silent about the gift of salvation and freedom that is ours in Christ through the Spirit?

Lisa told me about this guy named Mike Slaughter.  He sponsored some mission work in Sudan.  He isn't doing any proselytizing.  He isn't telling people who are Muslims they worship a demon and are going to hell. He is just helping people, because that is what he feels called to do.  Getting them health care.  Teaching them life skills.  Transforming barren land to fertile land.

Mike Slaughter isn't interested in saving souls, recognizing that the reality of the cross and empty tomb make that God's sole work.  Mike Slaughter isn't interested in telling the world how many converts to Christianity his mission work has produced, because he recognizes that such boasting has nothing to do with God's work.  Mike Slaughter just saw suffering and figured, since no one else was doing something about it, he would get his church involved in doing something about it.

Now, that kind of mission work is something I can support.  That's the kind of evangelization I can praise to the heavens.  Because it is being the Body of the Living, Resurrected Christ in the world, living in and for the suffering of the world without asking any questions, demanding adherence to any dogma or doctrine, not demeaning how others live their lives.  Rooted in the love that is God, this may be the single model for such work I could find myself supporting.

In an age when far too many people rely on their "religion" to demean, dehumanize, and kill, I'm not sure there is another model that is as incarnational and faithful to the Great Commission as this.

Virtual Tin Cup

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