This past Sunday kicked-off Missions Week at Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church. Each day this week, our church is praying for a gospel partner throughout the world. If you would like to follow along and pray, you can catch the prayer cards on our Facebook page – facebook.com/MABC.us.
I faced a challenge in preparing the sermon this past Sunday. We planned for several weeks for missions Sunday. In addition to passing out prayer cards, we launched the Empower offering in which a portion goes to missions, we collected Operation Christmas Child boxes, and had multi-cultural worship.
Now, some pastors changed what they planned to preach about this past Sunday in light of the current climate of our country due to the election. But I couldn’t very well change due, in part, to the planning poured into last Sunday.
As I prepared the sermon, I came to the realization that I could not have preached on a better topic than missions for two reasons:
First, mission unifies. When we are working all together, on God’s mission, we are unified.
Unity should – MUST – begin in the church. It must begin in the worship hour. The church is the place where black, brown white, Hispanic, Asian, and Arab come together in the same family. The church is the place where Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Independent worship together.
As Ed Stetzer tweeted, A divided nation needs a unified church focused on a common mission. This common mission is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, mission reminds us of what is actually transformative – what actually brings change. The good news of Jesus Christ makes the blind see, the lame walk; makes the poor rich; gives hope to the hopeless, gives peace to the restless; gives salvation to the lost.
The gospel makes a group of people that the world says shouldn’t be united into one family. It is our only hope for real, meaningful, and lasting change in our country.
The gospel’s advance is our mission.
But the interesting thing about the gospel is this – Its foundation is built on loving God and loving others. Jesus explains, in Matthew 22:34-40, that we cannot love God without also loving our neighbor.[i]
In Matthew 22, Jesus doesn’t define neighbor because he has already done so in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
If you remember the parable, a Jewish man, who is traveling, is beaten, robbed and left for dead. Two religious leaders pass by and don’t help this Jewish man – but instead, a Samaritan stops and renders great help to the Jew. Samaritans and Jews despised each other – so it was almost unthinkable that a Samaritan would help a Jew.
Jesus’ point, in that parable and in this passage, is that our neighborly love extends to every person – because everyone is equally made in God’s image.
Bear with me for a moment because this is something I feel strongly about – and I think we need to digest this biblical truth.
Trump’s election left me with three feelings.
The first is relief. I feel relieved that religious liberty has potentially a 4-year reprieve. I’ve been concerned for a while now that those pastors and churches who believe that God’s plan for marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman would be required to perform same-sex marriages or face consequences – consequences including branding that type of ideology as hate-speech.
But relief was not my only emotion.
The second is fear. I fear that the hope for racial reconciliation and racial justice will at the very least be ignored or downplayed and at the worst, discarded by Christians. That my brothers and sisters in Christ who are black or brown, Asian or Arab, or whatever would believe that their white brothers and sisters have abandoned them.
The third emotion is worry. I worry that those Christians who voted for Trump will be deceived into thinking that politics is once again the solution for what ails our country – when the only hope for our country is in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us here in Matthew 22 that every color, every culture, should be loved as much as we love our own. It is great sin to claim to love God and yet hate your neighbor – this includes thinking that you love black people but hate black culture. Or saying you love white people but hate white culture.
Now there are some things in each culture that need to change because they are sin. But before you condemn a culture, make sure you take the plank out of the eye of your culture first!
To love God means to love our neighbor. It means to love every color, every culture, as we love our own. It means that we gather together, every race, color, or political party, and worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
To love our neighbor means to advance the cause of the gospel. Because this is the only hope our country, our state, our community, and our world.
[i] Tasker, TNTC, 212