As you may recall, I didn’t grow up going to church and Sunday School, so a lot of the terms and phrases that are familiar elements in our Western Christian vernacular were foreign to me. For instance, some people were referred to as having been “called of God” to do certain things, and I wondered how that worked. Was God prone to just randomly extend these “callings” to ordinary people? The idea felt a bit disturbing, and I wondered what I might expect in regard to this spiritual phenomenon.
Newcomers should at least get an automatic temporary exemption to this process, I thought. And if not, was there any kind of opt-out process for those who just wanted to be normal, “God fearing” people who wouldn’t end up in a lake of fire someday. Some of the stories I heard made it clear that being “called of God” could be terribly intrusive, and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that. The whole subject got even more challenging when a guest speaker came to our church and was introduced as a ”missionary”. Apparently that guy’s call from God uprooted his whole life and sent him and his family off to live in some place I’d never heard of where people lived in huts and ate things like bugs and snails. I fervently hoped that if God ever felt like hitting me with one of those “calling” things, He wouldn’t make it one of those “missionary” ones. I just couldn’t see myself out shopping for dinner with a can of Raid.
It’s a Different World ~
Well… that was a while ago, and thankfully, my understanding in a lot of areas grew. Eventually I learned both how God’s enlistment program works and what this “calling” business was all about. The truth is that every sinner who wants to be forgiven and free is “called” by God—specifically, individually, and irrevocably. Our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection removes the weight of the shame and condemnation clinging to us. Then, the very Spirit of the Living God comes to indwell us. That equips us to do things we could never, and would never, do on our own, and the entire concept of who we are and why we’re here is changed.
The idea of missionaries wasn’t the only new term for me back then. What it meant to be a missionary was tied to geographic locales that were designated, “mission fields” in places that were always located in faraway countries. They were full of strange people who spoke strange languages, engaged in strange customs, ate strange foods, and dressed in strange attire. Mission field people also held strange beliefs, beliefs that were incompatible and often fiercely oppositional to God and His Word. Getting to those places was challenging in all kinds of ways, and it took really special people, “called” people, to go there. But that was just the beginning. Going to live in those places also required things like communication training, immunization shots, plane tickets, new clothes, fund raising, and passports. Mission work sounded complicated and full of obstacles, but it’s time to update our thinking and consider a different perspective because the world is changing.
An Avalanche of Strangers ~
Those who haven’t been hibernating or in a coma for the past eight months are aware that our country is being subjected to a purposeful, manufactured demographic transformation. Millions of “undocumented immigrants” are illegally pouring across our southern border. Unprecedented numbers of them are being transported to communities all across the country. Now, since the debacle in Afghanistan, we can add even more. Hundreds of thousands of refugees will be heading our way and will be “resettled” here. If being a missionary meant dealing with strange people, unfamiliar ideas, foreign languages, and unusual customs, then openings are increasing exponentially because the “mission fields” of the world are relocating to a neighborhood near you.
The masses of humanity being imported into America will include people who seem strange to us. Many will engage in unfamiliar customs, dress in ways that look different, speak a foreign language, and hold beliefs that are strange to us. Customarily being a missionary meant leaving home and going to strange, spiritually-darkened places, but that’s no longer the case. One of those strange and spiritually darkened places might be the house next door. In light of that, it might be helpful to take a break from our frustration and recurrent bouts of exasperation long enough to take a brief look at some things God had to say about how we’re to think about those we might think of as “strangers”. Here are some thoughts to consider:
- Throughout history, God’s people were considered strangers to the world around them at some point. God warned those He redeemed from slavery in Egypt not to forget where they came from. He said:
“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9 NKJV)
- We Western Christians tend to forget that in the early days of the Church, non-Jews were looked upon as unacceptable spiritual outsiders. The idea that God would offer the same saving grace to Gentile strangers as He did to them was, for many, hard to accept.
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11–13 NKJV)
- Historically, foreigners–strangers, if you will, were subjected to different standards and harsher judgments than the ruling classes. We’re seeing a literal parade of double standards displayed by the political and economic “elites” in this country right now, and God abhors that practice. We’re commanded to maintain continuity in our treatment of one another, and God extends that to include our treatment of the strangers among us as well.
One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. (Numbers 15:15–16 NKJV)
My early view of strangers and the missionaries sent to deal with them may have been a bit uninformed, but I’ve learned a few things since then. Strangers aren’t necessarily just those people from foreign lands. Those who use the same words we do might actually be speaking an entirely different language. People who dress like we do and dine at the same restaurants may embrace values and hold beliefs that are as oppositional to God’s designs as those in a satanic cult. Some of our neighbors and friends may be living in a spiritual vacuum that could have devastating implications. We are sent to make disciples of the strangers that are coming from everywhere, but we must not forget the ones who are already living among us.
Special People Indeed ~
We are, after all, missionaries, and missionaries are, indeed, special people. We do have a unique calling, and we’re all equipped with capacities others don’t have. We’re dispatched to love outcasts and strangers with a love that doesn’t make sense. Missionaries like us are convinced that God will often do incredible things just because we ask Him to. Missionaries are prone to sacrifice time, money, and other things for people they don’t even know. Some missionaries will give their last breath in an effort to infuse life into the dying souls of strangers.
The hope for peace in the chaotic world imploding around us and the dream of freedom in the hearts of strangers among us won’t be realized by political oratory, a winning lottery ticket, another electronic gadget, a new vaccine, or the casting off of moral restraints. Those hopes and dreams will languish unfulfilled until the heart of a missionary is born in someone who remembers what it was like to be a stranger and what we were sent to do.
Missionaries are just messengers. They deliver the promise of life in Jesus Christ and the risen Lord follows through. That simple process changes lives, and changed lives transform worlds. We who were once strangers ourselves have been given the mission of making disciples out of strangers in all the nations of the world (Matthew 28:18-20). The world is just outside our door now and the strangers are waiting . . . and we no longer need a passport to get to them.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Every sinner who wants to be forgiven and free is “called” by God—specifically, individually, and irrevocably. Our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection removes the weight of the shame and condemnation clinging to us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Some of our neighbors and friends may be living in a spiritual vacuum that could have lethal implications. We are sent to make disciples of the strangers that are coming from everywhere, but mustn’t forget the ones that are already here.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We have a unique calling. We’re dispatched to love outcasts and strangers with a love that doesn’t make sense. Missionaries like us are convinced that God will often do incredible things just because we ask Him to.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The hope for peace in the chaotic world imploding around us and the dream of freedom in the hearts of strangers among us will languish unfulfilled until the heart of a missionary is born in someone who remembers being a stranger” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Missionaries deliver the promise of life in Jesus Christ and the risen Lord follows through. That simple process changes lives, and changed lives transform worlds. The world is just outside our door now, and the strangers are waiting.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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