Sunday, September 6, 2009

We are all called

Recently I’ve been thinking about the desperate needs around us, both locally and around the world. I recently heard a Christian talking about how he thought some people are called to the hard ministries, like ministering to those dying of starvation or those without the Bible in their language, and others are not called to that. He also admitted that he liked his comforts too much to even consider going. What he verbalized, I see lived out in the majority of Christians that I observe. Our greatest concerns appear to be what coffee shop our Bible study should meet at next and what Christian concert is coming to town next.

Many of us have recently seen a video online which reminded us of some facts which should spur us to think differently:

  • There are 13 million orphans around the world.
  • 30,000 starve to death every day.
  • In the last hour, 1,625 children were forced to live on the streets. 1,667 children died from malnutrition or diseases. 115 children became prostitutes. 257 children were orphaned because of AIDS.
  • Half the world’s population live on less than $2 each day.
  • There are approximately 100,000 missionaries working in the world today. About 3% work among the unreached.

And what of getting the Bible and the Gospel message to the world? While we have hundreds of translations and versions in English, 2,393 language groups, comprised of 200 million people, have no Bible in their own language.

At what point do these facts become meaningful enough to us to make us go? Would those people in far-off places mean more to us if we were blood relations? If they lived across the street? Is it “out of sight, out of mind”? Because we don’t have to see their hollow hearts and dying bodies every day, we ignore them?

Would it make a difference if our positions were reversed? If we were the orphans, starving, dying of terrible diseases, and we had a chance to beg someone to come help us? If you were the poor, imprisoned, dying person in a far-off place, without hope, what would you say to someone in our culture, whose main goal is to live a “standard Christian life” in a clean-cut, comfortable, safe environment for the rest of his life? How would you get such a person to have enough compassion on you to believe he can make a difference, and to take steps to do so? How important would your rescue be to you if you were the one dying on the street, orphaned by disease or war, and with many questions about eternity but no answers at all in your language?

Our lives are not ours. We belong to Jesus Christ. We do not call the shots. Our all-consuming passion and mission is to be useful to the Master. He has the resources: what He needs are people who are willing to give up anything to heed the call He gives to all His followers.

Who will go for me? Whom can I send? Here I am, Lord; send me!

The call to follow Christ is a call to give up anything God asks us to—everything, if necessary—for the sake of ministering grace to others and sharing with them the Good News of the cross.

There is no second choice. There are not Christians who are called to serious ministry and those who are not. We are all called to find the darkness around us and shine the light of Christ. We start in our own homes, and go across the street, across the country, and across the world. No matter where we are, we have one uniting cause: people all around us are lost and dying without Christ, and we alone have the message of salvation.

While we are going about our lives, the most pressing needs deserve our greatest attention. A massive wound gets much more attention than a hangnail. Our missing a few meals here or there is not on the same level as the starvation killing thousands each day. And our comfort is not worthy to be compared to the suffering happening on our city streets and all around the world.

When and how did we become so callous that others’ desperate needs became so secondary to our comforts, so disconnected from our purpose in life? At what point did having a quiet, peaceable life, which God asks us to pray for, become equated with living in suburbia and focusing on which coffee shop to visit or which movie to see next?

God has not called us to mediocrity, self-centeredness, or complacency. He has called us to radical obedience and total commitment to reach out in love to the world. Discipleship means following Christ, and it has a cost which must be counted—but which is infinitely worth it.

Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” If it were you or I being led away to slaughter, we would be horrified to think that there were Christians in other countries who were praying for us on Sundays but whose primary thought all week long was about funding their retirement funds so they could take lots of vacations and keeping up on the latest sports scores. We would sit in wonder at the audacity of the contrast. We are a people who care enough to talk about it, yet feel no compulsion to go, as if it’s someone else’s problem and someone else’s call.

If parents were staring out their home’s front window, and saw their daughter being attacked, would they do something to stop it? Of course. What if they got a text message or call from their daughter across town? Of course. How about a state away? Still, yes. How about in another country? Still, yes; parents would do anything to rescue their beloved daughter.

What about a niece? How about a neighbor’s daughter? How about a stranger’s daughter? How far does the example have to be removed for us to justify letting it suddenly become someone else’s problem, and no longer urgent? How often does it have to be reported on the news before we just shrug our shoulders and forget about it? How many years of self-centeredness does it take for us to picture such suffering and just walk away so we can catch up on our Facebook updates before we watch our favorite reality show?

No parent would say, “That’s not my calling to rescue my daughter.” No one would think of it as a special gift or talent. No one would act like it is a difficult sacrifice to go help his or her daughter escape such a situation. It would be understood that it’s a parent’s responsibility, and a parent would be proud to go. It would be an honor and a privilege to sacrifice anything to rescue a daughter in need. Why is it somehow a massive sacrifice we’re unwilling to make when it’s someone else’s daughter? And why are we so short-sighted about the toll the sacrifice will make on our lives when Christ has said that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life"?

I will not allow this culture or even the Christian culture to callous me to the needs of the world. I am personally responsible, as all Christians are, to heed the call to reach out those with the most desperate needs. Book clubs and coffee houses and Superbowl parties are not wrong, but if that’s the sum and substance of our outreach, we have missed the boat.

Do we not understand the words? People are starving to death right now. Children are being sold into prostitution this very second. People are dying this instant in groups that still have no Bible.

How can we say this is anyone’s problem but ours—each and every one of ours? How can we turn a blind eye and focus our lives on anything else but those crying out with the deepest needs? If it were you or I, it would be an urgent matter. I will not let it become less than urgent simply because it is someone else’s problem and because it may cost me dearly to reach them. What cost could be too great to pay, especially in light of the great cost God paid--His own Son--to rescue us? If I were a father, I would ask others to be willing to pay any cost to rescue my children if I could not do so myself. It would eat me alive to watch my children be attacked or die of starvation or diseases. No cost is too great to rescue those who are perishing. No cost is too great in light of the cross.

I will not let my privileged status as someone who grew up in a safer, wealthier environment, to allow me to ignore the urgency of others’ plights. I will answer the call. As soon possible, I will go, and until I can go, I will help send others and pray for them, as well as for those to whom they are ministering. And as soon as I am able, I will answer the call that God issues to all of us.

Lord, send me!

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