Both/And and In-Between


Cover of "My Utmost for His Highest"

Cover of My Utmost for His Highest

Quote from Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest

 In mission work, the great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of the people, the the point that human sympathy for those needs will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, that every power of the mind falters and fails. We tend to forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary work is not primarily the elevation of the people, their education, nor their needs, but is first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ– “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19)

Now, my first response to this is that I certainly agree with it. However, it is also true that I could agree with almost the exact opposite as well.  Try this made up quote (by myself):

In mission work, the great danger is that God’s call be replaced by a sense of grudging obedience. This will replace concerns for the needs of the people, to the point that human sympathy for those needs, the meaning of being sent by Jesus, will absolutely be overwhelmed by a form of legalistic duty. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, that every power of the mind falters and fails. We tend to forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary work is the love of God that compels us to reciprocate with love for Him and all people. In response to that love, we seek the elevation of the people, their education, and their needs. After all, it is because of God’s love for all people that came the command of Jesus Christ– “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19)

As I said, I am not disagreeing with the quote by Oswald Chambers. We do missions as an act of obedience. Yet the Great Commission was given because of God’s love… a love that we are supposed to share and reciprocate (the Great Commandment). Which is the higher perspective… giving primacy to obedience of a command or giving primacy to the reason for the command? For example, does one love and care for one’s children because the Bible says we “gotta?” Or does one love one’s children because God loved us and created us to love (especially our own children) in like fashion?

It is hard to judge which should take first place. But maybe we shouldn’t worry about that. After all, Jesus served the Father as an act of duty, but also as an act of compassion for those in need (Matthew 9:36, 14:14). And the call for Jesus to serve came from God’s prior love (John 3:16).

Instead of arguing which is the higher or primary motivation, it may be best to see them as interconnected to the extent that separating them is dangerous. We obey because we love (and were loved by God first). And obedience to God is an act of love.

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