MISSION: SHARING GOD’S PAIN
– Dr. Vivek A. Gundimi
I am honored this morning to minister God’s Word to all of you who are seated here in the Presence of God. I convey my sincere gratitude to the Pastor and the Pastorate Committee for offering me this privilege.
When I was asked to speak on this theme, I thought to myself that the theme has to be treated in anything more than just a cursory manner.
So, I see my task today, not so much as giving you information that you don’t have. Rather my task today is to help us think through, in a logical and in an orderly fashion, what we already know. If I happen to accidentally communicate some new information, then thanks be to God. But with the help of God if I am able to help us think clearly and reflect carefully on what we are dealing this morning, then my prayers will have been answered.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the theme that has been presented to us this morning is one of the most substantial and crucial concern since the fall of mankind.
What is the meaning of the Mission of God? And why should we share in God’s pain?
For some people the term “mission” is understood and used differently; but from the Biblical perspective, “Mission” carries a wholistic understanding…”
Christopher Wright in his book, “The Mission of God” gives us the fundamental definition of mission. And this is what he says, “Our Mission is our committed participation at God’s invitation within the history of the world for the redemption of God’s creation.”
‘God’s Mission’ is the total redemptive purpose of his creation to establish his kingdom.
The concern and the action for the fallen man and for the dying environment on the other side is a legitimate and an integral dimension of God’s Mission.
Now, the question that comes to the forefront is this: Why should an all-powerful God begin a mission of redemption?
This question takes us to the very heart of the reality we experience today. What went wrong in a morally good world created by a good God? And Why is the mission of redemption pressed upon you and me? These two questions becomes the very substance for Mission.
What went wrong in a morally good world created by a good God? From the story of Adam and Eve, the first human couple on the face of the earth we understand that their rebellion and disobedience against a Loving God generated the mess that we now see around us at every level of our lives, relationships and environment.
What we find today is the lostness of man in the persuasion of sin; what we find today is the alienation of man from the fellowship of God; you see these two realities presents to us the complexities of life and the absurdities that we confront each day.
Ravi Zacharias in his reflection on the lostness of man says, “Today, man carries on a game of pretense into many many arenas of his life. He is attempting to build civilizations when he does not know what it means to be civilized. He is trying to be a philosopher when he does not know who the master philosopher is; He is portraying his artistic perceptions, he does not know the master artist, he moralizes on life, but he does not the moral the law giver.”
‘Sin’ has entered human life through rebellion and disobedience.
The two main words in the Bible for ‘Sin’:
- Is the concept of missing the mark. This has the image of an archer standing poised with his bow and arrow ready to hit at a particular object and he misses it.
- The second word used for sin is the one who deliberately steps aside in violation of something he knows to be right.
So our theology of mission must work with a comprehensive understanding of what is ‘sin’, and what is ‘evil’!
- First, Sin affected every dimension of the human person:
- Spiritually, we are alienated from God. We are fearful of His presence, suspicious of his truth, and hostile to his love.
- Rationally, we use our minds to rationalize sin. We have become darkened in our thinking.
- Physically, we are sentenced to death, (and we suffer the invasion of death) through sickness and decay.
- Socially, human life is fractured with anger, jealousy, violence and murder.
- Second, Sin affects human society and history:
Sin spreads horizontally within society and sin propagates vertically between generations.
- Finally, Sin affects the whole environment of human life:
Ladies and Gentlemen, We live in a horrendous social decay.
God could have controlled all of man’s actions, but he chose to give man the freewill to make a choice. But ‘Man’ abused his freedom and disobeyed God. Relationship and fellowship with God were broken, and Adam’s descendants marched in stubbornness away from God.
That went wrong in a morally good world created by a good God!
If God exists and is concerned for man’s response to him, why has he made life so frustrating?
The answer is: God originally made man faultless, but man trespassed his jurisdiction by rebelling against God and this brought frustration to himself and to the whole human race.
Today Man, in trying to free himself, has put thousands of lives in danger of destruction. In trying to find his identity, he has become a stranger to the world today.
A story is told about a man who was travelling on a small airplane for the first time in his life. So he sat in the first row right behind the pilot. Halfway through the journey, the pilot started laughing uncontrollably. So this man asked the pilot what was the joke. The pilot turned around, looked at this man and burst out in another hysteric laughter; and then he said, “I wonder what they will say at the mental asylum when they find out that I have escaped.”
Man has always chosen to reject his limits, and as a result he fails to keep that which is entrusted to his care. And now he is in a dilemma in not knowing the difference between wisdom and madness.
He laughs when he has to weep; and he weeps when he has to laugh;
He has compassion on the perpetrator of the crime but holds the victim of the crime as the motive for the crime,
He sensationalizes what he needs to be guilty of, and denounces the voice of ethics,
He has added years to life but not life to years.
In no pursuit has Man more thoroughly deceived himself than in pursuing ‘Sin’.
A famous poet by the name of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these words of his baby daughter, (it is also a nursery rhyme today). Well, this is what he wrote, “When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.”
It is understandable that a small child might quickly rotate emotions, but nevertheless we do not encourage this roller-coaster behavior continuing into adulthood. But sadly today, just the opposite of this is true in every aspect of our society: Sin has become an attitude.
Ravi Zacharias says, “For man, sin is not just an act, but it is an attitude. The offense is not only in the misbehavior but in the intention, not merely in the violation of the law but in the nature of the heart. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew Chapter 5, He says, Lust is adultery even if it never passes beyond the look of desire; hateful anger is murder even if murder doesn’t take place; materialism is the lust of the eyes even if one is not rich; this is so because the seat of sin is in the heart and in the will, not only in the action.” (Jer 17:9).
When you look at reality, there is nothing as beautiful as the good; in reality there is nothing so ugly as evil. But in our imagination we have reversed it. Man has made good to be evil and evil to be good. We have made good to become boring; and we have made evil to become charming. Good and evil are like the positive and negative poles of an electric current, the moment you transpose them darkness falls, and that’s why man has become a stranger to himself and the world.
This reality of evil and suffering in a world created by a loving God demonstrates the pain of God!
Any attempt to defend the goodness of God in the existence of evil, which does not have a God in pain – is bound to fall apart; because it is absurd to have a good God in the midst of evil and not having felt the pain of a good world gone wrong!
We can see the cross, and we see the crucified Son of God at the center of the cross. You see only with the cross as the focal point, only with the understanding that no matter what we suffer, God, has suffered with us, has suffered for us, and has suffered worse than any of us ever could; only with this understanding can any defense of the goodness of God in the midst of evil, even begin to make sense.
You see God has delight, joy, love, and supreme form of happiness. These realities are not the same in us as they are in God. There is a vast difference between Him and us; In the case of love, we love people by recognizing the good qualities someone has; but in God’s case, God’s love is not attracted to the good qualities we have; instead, God’s love is manifested in imparting those good qualities in us.
God’s love’ is active, whereas your love and my love is reactive!
When the Scripture in Genesis 6:6 says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” God was grieved not because he was not loved; He was grieved because He recognized the reality, the gravity and the consequence of human sin. He felt painful because Man lost something: The relationship and the fellowship which communes in worship. But when Man began to worship himself, he failed to allow God to be God! And as a result:
In an attempt to be reasonable he has become irrational,
In an attempt to idolize himself he has defaced himself, and
In an attempt to be free, he has made himself a slave of sin.
Now having said all of this, where do we find a solution to the problem of sin and evil?
The solution to the lostness and the alienation of man has been initiated by God himself through his choice; first through the calling of Abraham, then the nation of Israel, through whom God intends to bless all nations and ultimately to renew the whole creation. Now, the reality of this story is such that it includes you and me in its scope.
God includes the Church to participate in His Mission of redemption by proclaiming the Gospel for spiritual and social transformation:
-by word and action,
-by prayer and worship,
-by testifying through Christian life,
-by strengthening people in their relationship with God and with each other; and
-by communion with creation through conservation and preservation for future generation.
(Jer. 29:7; Gen. 12:1-3; Ex 19:3-6; Isa. 49:6; Mk. 1:14-15; Mt. 24:14; Luke 10:27; Acts 1:8; Mt. 28:18-20).
This is the Mission of God: the Mission of redemption of His Creation.
Mission is about learning to respond to the needs of our generation: some of those are poverty, corruption, AIDS, and so on…
Mission is applying the remedy of the gospel on the totality of our moral, social, economic, and ecological relationship. Because everything in this world has been perverted and twisted.
In the Old Testament reading from the book of Isaiah chapter 6, the people of Judah had mocked God and now God has commissioned Isaiah to call them to account. Moral and spiritual decay in Judah had peaked. In that context God reveals himself in Isa. 6:3 as “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty.” Now, this repetition of “Holy Holy Holy” underscores God’s infinite holiness in a society where sin and spiritual decay was rampant. Isaiah was given a difficult mission. He had to tell people that God was going to destroy them because of their disobedience. Now, in response to this, Isaiah submits himself no matter how difficult his task would be; he said, “Here am I. Send me” (6:8).
The more clearly Isaiah saw God in (6:5), the more aware he became of his own inadequacy to do anything of lasting value without God.
In Isa. 6:5 he confesses – “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips,.”
Isaiah’s response to God’s mission began with confession and submission.
When we recognize our sinfulness in midst of the perfection of God, we receive power to do his work. When we confess our sins before God, God’s moral perfection purifies us from sin, cleanses our minds, and enables us to serve Him.
So Number One: We can only begin to share in God’s mission through confession and submission.
In the Gospel reading of Luke chapter 10, Jesus chooses ordinary disciples and sends them to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus says here v8: ‘Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.’
What does this mean today? Mission is about releasing humanity from the demonic and the destructive forces – whose purpose is to bring darkness in human life.
Mission is crucially about bringing a tangible change and a visible release at an individual level and also at a public level.
- At the individual level is the release from guilt and fear in respect of God;
- At the public level is a release from despair and oppression, from poverty and inhumanity.
Number 2: Sharing God’s pain in Mission is about bringing Christ-shaped change into the situation.
And then Jesus goes on to say in v9, ‘Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food’. The words of Jesus clearly imply here that initiative comes first and resources come later. Mission travels light.
Mission is not advanced with a massive weight of cultural or financial baggage. Jesus implies that resources will follow initiative; and initiative is finding where the door is open and where the need is.
Number 3: Sharing God’s pain in Mission is about taking initiative where the doors are open and where the needs are.
Finally, from the life and the ministry of Paul we understand that faith in Christ brings great blessings, but often great sufferings too. Paul suffered for his faith. But the point is this: God calls us to commitment! He will be with us through suffering and hardship. But we must not limit God when we go through the rough phase while doing Missions. We must follow God’s leading, even when he leads us to difficult places and difficult people.
But do you know something? The trials and hurts we experience for Christ’ sake builds our character, demonstrates our faith, and prepares for further service to the Lord.
I think it is best said by the great missionary and explorer in Africa, Dr. David Livingstone. This is what he said, “God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever (remove) any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.”
Number 4: Sharing God’s pain in Mission is about remaining committed to God’s work even when the going gets tough.
Somebody once asked me, “What makes you so convincing to be in the missions in the midst of the thriving plurality of religions and other faiths?”
Ans. I said to them: What makes me convincing to be in the missions is this:
We have historical credibility for what we confess
We have archeological accuracy for what we profess
We have circumstantial evidence in what we rejoice
We have propositional authenticity in what we possess
Only Jesus is unique in His incarnation, in his holiness, in his suffering, death and resurrection.
And one of the greatest strengths of our Christian faith is that we not only have a ‘story to tell’, but also a daily ‘experience to share’.
And above all I said, “In other religions men go in search of gods, but in Christianity God comes in search of lost men.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, We receive a gospel that will not just settle down in inaction; We receive a gospel that makes us active, and pushes us out, and leaps out of our hands into the lives of others.
In sharing God’s Mission, we will grapple with the toughest questions, and we will confront battles of life.
Today, the New Atheism propagated by Dr. Richard Dawkins declares that belief in God is discredited by Scientific understanding of the universe;
Post-modernism proposes that there are no absolute values to guide personal behavior; and
Humanistic psychology rejects concepts of guilt and shame as being destructive for human well-being.
You see, not everyone is at the same point in their openness to the Gospel.
God’s Mission is not in idealizing a religion but in dealing with core issues of the helpless condition of the human life. God’s Mission is not an ideology that believes in dividing people on communal lines.
Man has failed to distinguish the dangers that come by the force of extremism and the beauty that lies in the freedom of making a choice. We are in God’s mission not to make India as a Christian nation; we are in missions to bring a Christ –Shaped change in every individual.
Everyone will not be at the same point in their openness to the Gospel:
-Religious militancy and
-The resurgence of non-Christian religions… have made our task of doing Missions difficult today than a 100 years back. But the Spirit of God is already moving among the people of the world and thousands are coming to Christ. We have to follow where the Spirit of God is working with a sense of urgency, sensitivity and commitment.
Mission is central to Christian faith and theology. Mission is not an option but it is an existential calling.
Let me summarize this quickly:
- God begins with a purpose in creation.
- Then a conflict is generated by human rebellion against that purpose.
- As a result man is alienated from his fellowship with God
- Subsequently the journey of God’s redemption unfolds on the stage of Human history.
- And as a result God involves us to share in his mission of redemption.
- We can only begin to share in God’s mission through our confession and submission.
- Sharing God’s pain in Mission is about bringing Christ-shaped change into the situation.
- Sharing God’s pain in Mission is about taking initiative where the doors are open and where the needs are.
- Finally, sharing God’s pain in Mission is about remaining committed to God’s work even when the going gets tough.
The ultimate goal of God’s mission is to bring glory to God. God receives glory when man fully realizes the purpose of his existence, and consciously praising God for his grace. (Eph. 3:19).
And it is this Mission that God invites you and me to share.
Mission is not just about introducing God to people. It’s much more a question of saying to people that God is more interested in you, than you are in God. Perhaps one of the first things we should say on the basis of all this is: God is on the way to you before you have begun to be on the way to God.
Lets Pray: There is one God at work in the universe and in human history, and this God has a goal, a mission that will be accomplished by the power of God’s word for His glory.
God, we offer ourselves to you, use us as we participate in your mission. Guide us that we may commit ourselves in the way you want us to serve you in your Mission; that we may share your pain concerning the fallen state of your creation. In Jesus name we pray… Amen!