Disclaimer:: In no way am I an expert on missions, whether international or domestic. In fact, I’m pretty limited on my knowledge. But there are a few things that I have learned in my experiences, and since this is my blog and I am allowed to be biased, I feel it is important to share them.
That being said, it is NOT okay to follow the Lord’s call to a country overseas, whether for a lifetime or for a week, and try to make others feel guilty for not doing the same. And it is not okay to try to make others feel bad for living their lives more comfortably than they would be living if they were in a third world country. And it is definitely not okay to condemn others for following the Lord right where He has them. Yes, there are plenty of people in America who take the MANY blessings we have for granted and who aren’t living up to their full potential in Christ. I have been that person. But that doesn’t give any believer the right to try to make someone feel bad for living for and serving the Lord right here in the States – air conditioner, grocery stores and all.
Read the writings of Mother Teresa, Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Hudson Taylor, Katie Davis, and any other Scripture-reading, Christ-following missionary and you will not find a condemning nature. You will find them sharing the truth of what they know and see each day in love, you will find them sharing prayer requests and stories of how the Lord has worked or even how they were too late to help, you will find them asking others to support their work, and you will surely find them giving all glory to the Lord, but you will not find them appalled at the fact that every other believer isn’t sitting in the dirt beside them feeding the orphan or holding the leper’s hand. Because they know that not everyone is called to give up everything and move to a foreign land. Yes, every believer is commanded to live on mission. Yes, every believer is commanded to make disciples. But making disciples and living on mission looks different for each believer, and judging another for having a different calling, is simply pharisaical.
“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'” Luke 18:9-14
Our job as we live on mission is to humbly focus on Christ and the people He has called us to love. We are to share their stories and ask other believers for prayer and support, but we are not called to judge others for how the Lord chooses to use them. Immaturity may cause some to think that being a light in a dark place can only look like moving to Africa or opening up a soup kitchen for the homeless, but it can just as easily look like living in the Bible belt and working a 9-5 surrounded by unbelievers. No matter if you live in India or Indiana, living for Christ is a matter of daily, consistent obedience. Or, as Friedrich Nietzsche calls it, “a long obedience in the same direction”.
If you recall, Jesus didn’t ask every person He came across to give up all of their material possessions to follow Him. But He did ask this of the rich young ruler, because He wanted to teach him that he wasn’t as holy as he thought he was.
God isn’t asking every believer to give up our homes and our families. If He did, who would send and support the missionaries? But maybe He will ask it of me or of you, or maybe He will pull an Abraham and Isaac and just see if we are willing to do it. It is up to me, as a believer, to seek the Lord and ask Him what it is He would have me do. And it is up to me to obey Him. There is no point in trying to take on the burden of changing every believer’s heart. Only He can do that.
So instead of trying to guilt others into moving to a third world country and instead of bragging on all that we think we have done, let’s brag on HIM. Let’s share stories of how HE changed lives. Because He definitely doesn’t need us, and He surely doesn’t want us if we aren’t going to give Him ALL of the glory. Because, let’s face it, He is the one doing all the work anyway.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” John 15:5-8