What's the motive for your mission?

by Oct 18, 2011

The parables of the mustard seed and yeast in Matthew 13:31-33 remind us that God’s kingdom is continually expanding in influence. And Jesus wants us to join him in his mission to the world.

Many Christians say to themselves, “That’s absolutely right. I should be influencing my neighbors and coworkers with the gospel.” But that’s as far as they take it. Their missional engagement never rises above a motivation of guilt-driven duty. They invite some neighbors over for dinner, or buy lunch for a coworker. They make quick mention of their involvement in church (“You ought to come sometime!”), then sigh with relief when their missional duty is done.

See if you can spot a different motive behind Jesus’ mission:

  • Matthew 9:20–22: “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.”
  • Matthew 9:35–36: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and vil- lages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • Matthew 14:14: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
  • Matthew 15:30: “And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them.”
  • Matthew 15:32: “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.’”
  • Mark 1:40–41: “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneel- ing said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’”
  • Mark 10:20–21: “And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”

The common thread? Compassion. Darrin Patrick responds to passages like these with this challenge:

Being on mission means having open eyes that are looking for the hurting—the married couple living next door struggling with fertility, the frat boy who disguises his alcoholism with the statement, “Hey, this is what college is all about,” the single mother who waits on you at the restaurant even though she has no idea how she and her child will eat tomorrow after her tips buy food tonight.

To open your eyes is to risk losing your life and living with a broken heart for the sake of the lost. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, the alternative to a compassionate heart is a dead heart: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

The motive for mission is compassion. We join Jesus on his mission not because we want to grow our church or because we like to dispense apologetic insights to skeptics or even because we like to hang out with unbelievers. We go on the mission of the Savior because we share the compassionate heart of the one who sees people as sheep without a shepherd.