Motivation matters. Let’s take, for example, the issue of global missions. Some Christians are passionately motivated to somehow participate in God’s global project, but others are much less motivated. Can this be explained by turning to the language of individual calling? That is, only some are called to take an interest in missions today?
Since levels of motivation vary, many seek to stir the interest of others in missions. Personally I see a whole host of potential motivations springing from the pages of Scripture, but we can save that for another day. What concerns me is when people present one motivation as if it is the exclusive legitimate motivation, thereby dismissing other biblical options.
Let’s look at a possible example. Here’s a quote from John Dawson that critiques the possibility of loving “the lost” (in the context he is addressing the challenge of a lack of compassion for others and how to witness anyway based on our love for God.):
“It is impossible to love ‘the lost.’ You can’t feel deeply for an abstraction or a concept. You would find it impossible to love deeply an unfamiliar individual portrayed in a photograph, let alone a nation or a race or something as vague as ‘all lost people.’”
(quoted in Crossman’s Worldwide Perspectives Manual, p77)
Is that true? Is it impossible to love an unfamiliar individual, nation or race? My experience and that of others would beg to differ. But let’s also challenge this idea with more than just personal experience.
In the gospel the other-centred relationality of the Trinity spreads out to encompass us. He loves us, drawing us to become lovers of Him, to participate in an utterly others-centred community. A central feature of the New Covenant is the giving of a new heart, making us passionate to glorify Him because we love Him and to value what He values – including, of course, the nations (for God so loved the world). We passionately give ourselves and our resources for missions motivated by His love as our hearts beat with His and like His. We become like the person we love. To use the name of a blog I often read, God’s spreading goodness spreads to us, and through us.
So we can love the lost, we can love the masses, because the Lord does (when He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, Matt.9:36), and we become increasingly like Him. Perhaps a lack of love for the lost is an indication of creeping concupiscence (self-love), for if we love Him, we will also love whom He loves. So often, then, the fuel for missions is found as we fall, broken and needy, before the cross of Christ, again overwhelmed by His love for this world, including me, including them.
I appreciate this quote from Nate Saint, missionary pilot to Ecuador: “When we weigh the future and seek the will of God, may we be as moved with compassion as our Lord.”
Is it possible to love “the lost”? What might it look like if our hearts were so captivated by His that His values became ours? As we open the shutters onto the vast field of global missiology, with all its biblical and theological foundations, where does your thinking go?