Friday, October 29, 2010

Cracked Pots or Useful Vessels

Love your neighbor as yourself is the most important commandment after loving God! Most of us have no problem with the loving God part. Not always easy but easier than loving our neighbor. A quote from Teamwork, "So often in the church or in other Christian work and mission, we justify damaged relations on the importance of 'getting God's work done.' The history of the Church over the two thousand years has often failed to demonstrate that Christians love one another. No matter what relationship we are in we must give higher priority to the importance of maintaining the unity of the body, to maintaining loving relationships. to act as though relationships are only secondary that in our zeal for God's work we can neglect these, is to miss the whole point of the Christian faith. Loving God is difficult, but he is a gracious forgiving God. Loving others is even more difficult, because 'the other' is not a perfect loving and forgiving being, and neither are you. There is nothing that exposes our self-centered attitudes more than living and working alongside other people. Love is the mark of our discipleship and it speaks louder than any thing we do for the Lord."

What if our reason for being a missionary is not to do great things or great programs for people but to conform our hard headed stubborn selves into suitable vessals that can be used by Christ? What if that is the only reason we are here? Someone said to me that missionaries have to be stubborn and hard headed in order to work here (in Niger). I so disagree with that statement because it is just the opposite that Christ is teaching me!

What is brokenness and surrender all about if it is not to make us into the image of Christ so that the people we have come to minister to will see Christ and not our stubborn, hardheaded selves? What if that is what is going to bring people to Christ, not our stubbornness, but our brokenness. Another quote I read prior to this was that in a country where there is an established church, one of the questions asked by the church about missionaries is "Is he/she broken?" If they are broken then they can work together! So many times we come out with our own programs, agenda, etc., and we aren't willing to work with others--either from our own mission or with other missions. We aren't willing to set aside our own programs for the sake of unity and for the sake our relationship. We waste so much time, energy and resources because we refuse to work together! Break me and conform me to your image O Lord! I want to be like you! I want to be useful!

What if God is trying to strip me of everything so that all the Fulani, the Zarmi, etc. see is Jesus? They don't want to see my degrees, my expertise, my efficiency, my frugal lifestyle (that is still so very wealthy in comparison.) They only need to see Jesus. Jesus said, "By your love for one another!" If we love one another and forgive one another people will want what we have. We have to be willing to do that though.

Jesus' prayer in John 17 20-23 is for us, those who have believed the disciples' message of unity. He prays that we would be one just as he and the Father is one. Why? So that the world may believe that the Father had sent him. He prays, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." He also prays that we might know the Father's love in the way that Jesus had known it. He said he would continue to make the Father known so that the love the Father had for him would be in us and that Jesus himself would be in us. Do you grasp that? That we can know the same kind of love that Jesus had with the Father and that this is how the world will know Jesus?

The only way we can live in this kind of unity and love is to have a humble, forgiving heart--one that is quick to forgive. Help me Lord to be just that, humble and forgiving full of Jesus' love.

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