We have talked it seems forever about all the hand wringing and turmoil that exists over mercy and mission work overseas. The arguments about whether we should do mercy work at all are numerous and noisy. The amount of time that is spent in analyzing or motivation for missions is amazing considering that the world is dying and needs to hear the “good story”. There are even academic battles over what should be the Bible verse, or the specific words of Jesus that motivate our mission endeavors.
I have talked about conviction, confidence and competence as traits exhibited by Jesus that made folks say he taught as one who had authority. Wrangling over motivations and inner convictions it seems to me calls into question all three of these. So what are we to make of the idea that there are different Biblical motivations for mission and we should be careful to determine which is ours? Some say that you can actually trace the different historical changes in mission motivation through the years. For instance it is taught that one period of the missionary work of the church Luke 14:23 was the motive.
The Parable of the Great Supper
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread[c] in the kingdom of God!”
16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
So the mission motive here is that we want to bring the Gospel of Christ and the good news of salvation to those who must be gathered before the judgment seat of Christ. WE are concerned for their eternal salvation and therefore want them to hear. It is a recognition of the churches task to call to others and implore them to be reconciled to God (1 Cor 5:20). Whether they hear and respond is up to them but our task is the compelling. Why this should be set over and against any other missionary text is beyond me but the study of motivations seems to be a bust. If we are convinced that we need to go and tell, confident that God’s word is living and active and competent to speak the Gospel, I am not sure what difference it makes what passage or passages we use.
If there is a hypersensitivity because of political correctness and cultural issues then it makes a difference. If there is an issue with the poor and the lame and the blind and maimed then there is an issue. There are actually folks out there that do not believe there should be mercy work done in conjunction with the Gospel. There are those that think that the missionary motive must by definition be paternalistic. There are some who believe that unless we study our inner motivation we are making a bad witness. There are even some who think that Lutheran missions should not necessarily be about making Lutheran Christians.
We believe that Jesus died and redeemed all mankind. We also believe that the benefits if that redemption come about through faith. Our task is to proclaim and witness to the cross of Christ.