The world has been closely attuned to the convulsions for freedom in the Middle East over the past few weeks. It is clear that despotic, autocratic rulers that squelch the legitimate longings for meaningful employment, unbridled communication, self-determining governance, and competitive education cannot hold sway over the masses in their countries interminably. God created human beings in freedom, for freedom. And this freedom cannot be delayed forever, as Martin Luther King, Jr. advised. As Christians we affirm, “for freedom Christ has set us free”; the question we must probe is: how does this theological confession interface with the universal longing for freedom? We are called to reflect on the democratization of mission.
When we consider how to do mission in our day, we must be acutely aware of the kind of world we engage (factors I mentioned in my last posting.) Formerly, mission conjured the idea of Christians “sending” to those places where God was unknown, where “civilization” looked different from the mission society doing the sending. In our day, the word mission conveys a much broader interpretation. There are mission statements for schools, corporations, social services—in addition to faith communities. Christians do not own the word “mission,” so we must speak about the mission of humanity. The missio humanitatis begins with how God has made us, and it seeks to gather up the universal yearning to “put the world to rights,” in the language of N.T. Wright. One way to describe this mission is as a “common task” that draws all humanity into its pursuit. M. Thomas Thangaraj summarizes this mission of humanity as responsibility, solidarity, and mutuality. These words suggest a level of vulnerability for all who work together for liberative purposes; persons who collaborate are changed by finding common ground. We grow together as we share our understandings of the human condition and the ways of grace we are learning.
Mission is the very core of God’s work in the world, and God chooses the incarnational principle as the most effective means. As the Word became flesh in Jesus, so the word must continue to be embodied throughout the world as we participate in mission as joint action for justice, peace, education, healing, and hopeful presence. Persons who participate in God’s redemptive mission always find themselves drawn into the larger story of the eager longing of all creation (Romans 8: 19). Mission in our day will be more encompassing than how we have understood salvation in the past; it will have ecological dimensions, also. Mission will be driven by a deep compassion for the most vulnerable, and it will seek to alleviate inexorable suffering as much as possible. Humans have an obligation to one another and to the world, given by God, to share. The story of Jesus will never be far from the lips of his missional people, but listening to the groaning of all creation (which includes humanity) in its cry for freedom is the first step.
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about a school that is seeking to listen to this groaning, visit our website www.cbts.edu