In his helpful book on world views, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire, quotes from John Updike’s “Pigeon Feathers.” Sire is thinking of naturalism and its unending darkness.
“Without warning, David was visited by an exact vision of death; a long hole in the ground, no wider then your body, down which you were drawn while the white faces recede. You try to reach them but your arms are pinned. Shovels pour dirt in your face. There you will be forever, in an upright position, blind and silent, and no one will remember you, and you will never be called. As strata of rock shift, your fingers elongate, and your teeth are distended sideways in a great underground grimace indistinguishable from a strip of chalk. And the earth tumbles on, and the sun expires, an unfaltering darkness reigns where once there were stars.”
I thought of this quote while reading the interesting discussion started at Presbyterian Bloggers by Paul Boal. The posting Jesus, is about different kinds of missions and mission minded people: those intent on good works or those who simply want to talk about Jesus and what it means to be saved.
While I believe that both goals must be undertaken by Christians I understand the good news to be that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that by his resurrection we are united to him and given new life. Alongside the above quote I have to think of Jesus’ words to his followers:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)
The gift of life in Christ, his forgiveness, the hope of life with him forever is the greatest goal of all mision. The fields are white and ready for this gift.
Of course, good works follow from our transformation in Jesus.
The great, commission, as it is called, is filled not only with the message of salvation for the nations but with the command to obey all that Jesus taught.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying: ‘All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the age.’”
So if I as a Christian go on a mission to build houses or heal sick bodies or help the poor plant gardens I must also be ready to proclaim that Jesus died for our sins and calls for repentance from the sinner. I must proclaim that Jesus Christ is truly Lord.
And if I go on a mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, I must also be ready to help broken and hurting people in other ways. I must serve Jesus Christ as Lord by serving others.
But one extremely important point here is that to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be united to him because of his great salvation, means I can never refuse to proclaim the message of salvation. That is Christ’ calling to all of his people.