READ: Psalm 81, Hosea 10, Luke 9, 1 Corinthians 16
STEADFASTLY SET YOUR FACE
Our Arab city has been troubled this week: demonstrations turning ugly, rival factions of Muslims attacking each other, and violence between security forces and civilians. The Christian minority has been targeted and many churches and Christian institutions have been attacked. To live in the Arab world in our day is to experience, like Paul, simultaneously open doors and adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9). Interestingly the most passionate calls for our team to evacuate originate from our families and friends in the faith.
Jesus occasionally made a tactical retreat, but only in the context of steadfastly setting His face to go up to die in Jerusalem when the right time came (Luke 9:51). The scripture in fact describes His death as something to be accomplished not something to be avoided (v. 31, NKJV). A subtle and emotional error has crept into the thinking of mission supporters–the error that the safety of the missionary is the highest goal of the sending church or agency. Jesus was sent to die, and missionaries are sent to follow in His footsteps. Jesus instructs all who follow Him to deny themselves and take up their cross daily (v. 23), and bearing a cross is difficult when one is running away from Calvary. Jesus asks friends and family to bear the cost of sending loved ones into harm’s way for the sake of the gospel. If mission in these last days falters, it will not be because missionaries are unwilling to die; it will be because senders are unwilling to commission them to suffering and death.
The sending and remaining of God’s people in difficult, violent contexts is a form of corporate audible praise. The Western Church is losing the art of praise. We can sing, we can clap, but we are losing the gift of verbal, audible, personal and unique glorification of Jesus–both in the church service and in the world. When we have the missional will to deploy and sustain our loved ones in chaotic and dangerous places, it is an intentional song of praise to the world and to the spiritual powers of destruction. This praise declares that Jesus is worth living for and worth dying for. The corporate willingness to send missionaries into danger for Jesus’ sake is akin to standing up in the stadium of the world, thrusting the arms of the body of Christ into the air, and shouting at the top of our unified lungs, unashamed to represent Jesus and to cheer for His advance across the field of time. It is senseless for the missionary to die due to politics, yet in order to represent Jesus well, encourage the brothers and sisters who cannot leave and make a praise statement to the world about the supremacy of Jesus that missionaries (and their senders) must be determined to steadfastly walk towards their Jerusalem, not run away.