Sunday Morning Follow-Up

Missionaries in the Neighborhood Week 2: Learning from Jesus

It seems obvious, right?

Forget the language about being a missionary, or the specific location of a neighborhood, as Christians we learn from Jesus Christ. He’s not only the source of our salvation and relationship with God, and he’s not the one declare as Lord over everything, but he’s also the great teacher and the wonderful example of what it means to be human as God intended. We are his disciples, so of course, we learn from Jesus.

Except for when we don’t.

The Spirit may be willing, but the flesh is often weak, and even when we may have a hunch of what Jesus would call us to, we often live counter to his teachings. Other times we are so wrapped up in the big stories of our culture that we don’t realize that they aren’t actually stories that are in line with the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to announce. And so we must turn our eyes continually to Jesus as we seek to be missionaries in the neighborhood.

What sort of missionary?

This discussion is important because throughout history, the church has often failed to look to Jesus, and has therefore employed missionary endeavors that have been less than faithful to the Kingdom of God. One needs only study the ways in which some churches and missionary efforts helped to support the violent treatment of Native Americans in this country to see that when we forget the word of our Lord to love our neighbor, and even our enemy, the name of Christ is tarnished rather than lifted up.

While it is not likely that any of us expect to march into the neighborhood and force people to change to be like us (at least I hope), there are dangerous seeds in that thinking that can poison our own ability to love our neighbor well. As we meet our neighbors, as we build relationships we can see ourselves as the people coming in with “all the right answers,” or the righteous people coming in to help those who don’t know any better. We can be tempted, if we turn our eyes from Jesus, to forget our own sinfulness and begin to judge the very people Jesus has called us to love.

God is Already at Work

So we must look at Jesus, and ask how can he shape our efforts to be missionaries in the neighborhood. When we do that we are reminded that we are not any better than our neighbors. We have all sinned, we are all in need of our Lord’s saving grace, and therefore to pass judgement or to look down upon our neighbors is to miss the point entirely. We also recognize that Jesus came at just the right time in history, because God had been working for all those years toward that one moment when Jesus’ work in the world would begin. This is a reminder to us that God is already at work in the neighborhood. There are people there he’s already using to make his kingdom known. He’s already wooing people, and calling them to himself, and when we enter our places of calling and seek to work along with God on his mission, our primary task is to love our neighbor, listen to their story, and to listen for the Spirit’s leading in how to bring the kingdom into their story.

But that’s a topic for another Sunday (this coming one).

Wondering what it looks like to be a faithful missionary in the neighborhood? Make sure to be a part of our Sunday gatherings in October when we will hear from different missionaries in different contexts about what it looks like to serve “on the field,” and as we ask how that shapes our own imagination of being missionaries ourselves.

Sermon Follow-Up: Jesus Shaped Missionaries