Life among the pagodas
Ministry. It is like the pinnacle sport of a Spiritual Olympiad, right? You get there because you’re really good, and people believe in you.
Several times in the last year, I’ve been told that it’s remarkable I’m headed for such a life (missions), since I have “x” or “y” as an obvious weakness. At first, those words were painful to me. What to think when you’ve been told you’re too flawed to follow?
Those voices were right, but only in terms of the present world’s economy. Our merit-hungry sphere loves to help people who turn into success stories. We hail those who come back with a spreadsheet of results and a plump pocketbook. We’re expert resume scanners, financial risk avoiders, and critics of those who make public mistakes.
God’s economy runs on different fuel. He choses flawed people; shepherds with speech impediments (Ex. 4:10) and dishonest businessmen (Gen. 27:35, 36). He has called someone who disliked people (Jonah 4:1-3). He’s picked folks with bad resumes: prostitutes, an estranged daughter in-law, treacherous extortionists, frightened warriors, bad parents, murderers. God could’ve found people with better credentials. These individuals were certainly not qualified.
If you asked me, I could enough list enough inhibitive weaknesses to disqualify myself, too. I fail to live out the gospel on a regular basis; why should I be an ambassador to others? When I look horizontally, there are plenty of good reasons I’m no good for this ministry.
Looking up toward Christ, the reasons are different, and these are the reasons that matter:
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus… who is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34)
“Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (I Tim 1:15)
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2:10)
This is the amazing, amazing thing about God’s power: he displays his grace potently through some flawed individuals. Read through your Bible and tell me you don’t find those narratives reassuring. This is a God who loves generously, a God who picks some people before they’ve made their worst mistakes.
The fact that God uses a person like me—it is the ultimate testament to the Gospel of Christ. Me, in the mission field? Telling people that Jesus saves, while still toddling about, still learning to walk the talk? It’s proof that God is claiming this world and its people for himself! God’s use of imperfect people as his ambassadors is a guarantee that he is not going to destroy us all and start over with a fresh, unpolluted bunch of people. You might call it amazing grace.
In case you were wondering, in case you’re going to ask around, I’m not qualified to follow Christ; I’m not qualified to broadcast the Gospel. Neither are you! And yet, our testimony about Christ only makes sense when we readily admit this.
Next time I’m confronted with another reason to stay home, I’ll readily agree with my confronter, and then I’m gonna share the missing part of their story, straight from the horse’s mouth: “thanks be to God, who has qualified me to share in this inheritance” (Col. 1:12).