EDITORIAL: Should we go willfully into danger?
That’s the promise Jesus made to his 12 disciples when he sent them out to preach the good news in the Gospel of Matthew.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves,” Jesus says in Matthew 10:16. “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.”
We struggle with these words. Yes, it’s dangerous out there, but go anyway. That’s what Jesus seems to be saying. These hardly are words of comfort, yet we long to obey.
And, especially nowadays, we see wolves everywhere.
They’re in Afghanistan and the Middle East, where militant Islamists call for jihad — holy war. They’re just south of the U.S. border, where murderous drug cartels turn cities into battlegrounds.
Bible scholars and former missionaries, including Evertt Huffard at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn., say that our standards of safety and cleanliness have kept us from going into all the world, as Jesus commands in Matthew 28.
We stand amazed by the devotion of Christians who serve in these troubled lands, despite the horrors we see portrayed in media. Their desire to helpthose in need — regardless of the risks — inspires us.
It’s important to note that the coordinators of mission work in Afghanistan and Mexico are not amateurs. Ministry in such environments requires “shrewd as snakes” strategy. That requires advance planning and a willingness to adapt. Those who work in such ministries must be willing to change or cancel their plans with
little advance warning.
Such ministry also requires “local intelligence.” Whether reaching out around the world or across the street, the best mission efforts utilize people who live in the environment being served — people who can assess risks and offer sound advice. In mission work, honest, hardworking, on-the-ground believers are priceless.
Equally valuable are the Christians who support such works — people who never set foot on foreign soil. Those who donate funds, fill shoeboxes with toys or collect relief provide the “fragrant offering”
Paul talks about in Philippians 4 — gifts pleasing to God.
Christ asks us to risk much for the sake of the Gospel, but we err when we conclude that stepping willfully into dangerous reaches of the globe is the only way to serve.
Opportunities to leave our comfort zones and serve those in need are everywhere. Our hearts rejoice at the renewed efforts among believers to reach America’s inner cities. In communities such as Abilene, Texas, Churches of Christ are finding new ways to reach out to refugees — people who have endured unimaginable horrors at the hands of brutal regimes.
We may never know what it feels like to be flogged. Some of them do.
May God give all of us — no matter where we serve — the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.
FeedbackI agree. I am planning a mission trip to the french riviera. I will spend long days scanning the beaches for possible convertees. If a congregation wants to support my efforts I will add them to my mailing list of the “convertee of the month pictures.” For one elder from that congregation I will provide an all expenses paid trip to check out my work and if they so desire an introduction to a convertee. I will have a website where I will post pictures of candidates. I cannot imagine with beaches like the riviera why anyone would want go elsewhere. I need a treasurer and a travel consultant.John JenkinsGSMCOCGatlinburg, TN
USAJune, 8 2012Having served as a missionary in some “troubled lands” (Mindanao in the southern Philippines; Albania), I commend the editors for an article which is spot on! Informed strategic planning, inter-cultural competence, and flexibility are each indispensable to long-term productivity and persistence in “high-risk” mission fields. Needed above all that, though, is a heart made pure by God’s grace, which can see His presence and providence in all circumstances.Steve ByrneChurch of Christ at Pearl HarborHonolulu, Hawaii
USAApril, 26 2012As I read this, I thought of Epaphroditus, the Philippian disciple whose “prison ministry” to Paul meant that he “gambled” his life in rendering this “work of Christ” (Philippians 2:29-30). Paul says the church should joyfully honor disciples like Epaphroditus.Greg FlemingNorth A Church of ChristMidland, Texas
U.S.April, 26 2012