Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept…
This isn’t the first time I’ve written on this passage, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I find myself drawn to Jesus’ description of the final judgment over and over. I can’t get away from it.
As a young man, Isaac Watts complained to his minister father about the deadly dullness of the hymns sung in their church. The elder Watts said what should always be said to the younger generation: “If you don’t like it, fix it.”—specifically, “Write your own hymns.” And so Isaac did. He became one of Christianity’s influential hymn writers. One of his most well-known hymns begins:
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own his cause,
Or blush to speak his name?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of confessing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and figuring we’re set. We don’t have to worry any more. As a pastor once said to me, “Your ticket is punched.” This is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.
We are called to be missionaries—not in the faraway, foreign country sense, but in the way Jesus was a missionary. He had a mission to perform. As he said, he came not to be served but to serve. In Matthew 25 he passes that sense of mission to his followers, and he makes it not a request but an order. Jesus doesn’t say, “If you have nothing else to occupy your day…,” or, “In your spare time…,” or, “I’d appreciate it if you would consider…” He says this is what we must be doing in order to inherit the kingdom he has prepared.
This is not an easy assignment. Sometimes we’ll make mistakes, and give or do the wrong thing, failing or offending those we are supposed to be serving. Sometimes we’ll meet opposition. As Steve Hedgren says, “If a project is good and it is going to make a difference, there will always be opposition.”
Sometimes we’ll be so weary in well-doing that we’ll want to pack it in. We’ll say, “Surely I’ve done enough. Jesus must be pleased with my effort. Time to rest on my accomplishments.” Isaac Watts expresses those sentiments this way:
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fight to win the prize,
And sail on stormy seas?
He answers his own question (my paraphrase):
No! I must fight if I would win,
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word.
Francis Bacon put it this way: “Here is a test to see if your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive—it isn’t.” Jesus puts no time limit on our mission, no specific number of cups of cold water served, or visits to the sick, or meals delivered. His implication is that we are to keep serving to the end. In fact, he makes it clear in the first half of Chapter 25 that we are to be vigilant because we do not know when our end will be.
So we must keep going—going to the place where those in need are to be found. As Tony Campolo says, “Jesus never says to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but He says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned.’”
And serve them in Jesus’ name.