One in Mission
I was a teenager when I understood what Jesus did on the cross. My natural inclination was to tell my friends about the forgiveness of God and to warn them about the coming judgment. I would cut class to tell people about Jesus. I probably brought a hundred friends to my youth group so they could hear about Jesus. I dreamed of getting the whole school to hear the gospel. I was obsessed with reaching my friends.
The longer I was a part of the church, however, the less focused I was on the mission. I spent more and more time with other Christians, and I had fewer and fewer unbelieving friends. We rarely stirred one another to action as God had commanded. Our version of fellowship became going out for coffee and talking about our families.
The more we neglect our mission, the less chance we have of seeing true unity. Our common mission is supposed to lead us toward unity. Lisa and I are united. It’s not because we work at it but because we stay focused on our purpose on earth. We stay busy at our common goals of reaching the unreached, caring for the poor, and equipping believers for ministry.
The by-product of pursuing a common goal is our oneness. This has been true for twenty-seven years of an insanely happy marriage. Unity is a by-product of mission.
Once we take our eyes off our calling and look at ourselves or each other, conflicts can start creeping in. This has been true of not only us but also of our whole family and church.
Like a marriage that has no purpose, many churches have forgotten the point of their existence. They can quickly focus on the complaints of their people rather than the cries of the lost. We get more emotional over Christians leaving to go to a different church than we do about people dying and going to Hell. Something is horribly wrong when we grieve more deeply over people rejecting us than those who reject their Messiah.
Paul was so fixated on the spread of the gospel that he could rejoice over the gospel being spread, even when it was done with wrong motives.
He understood the urgency of the situation. It wasn’t hard for him to put his feelings aside when he saw that the true gospel was being preached. People were purposely attacking him, and it didn’t faze him—as long as the gospel was proclaimed.
It’s like a paramedic swearing at you while he’s trying to save your wife’s life. You can overlook your own feelings when someone you love is in serious danger. There is no danger greater than an eternity apart from God. We need God to revive our concern for the destiny of unbelievers. It’s when we care about them enough that we will put aside our differences to reach them together.