Guest Post- Alexandra Vittetoe

24 Mar

Alexandra Vittetoe has a passion for travel and a heart for missions. She shares here from her blog, redpenpapers.

Recently I was discussing with an unsaved relative the idea of my class “Theology of Missions,” and explaining to her the typical content of this course. She was very confused because in her mind, she said, the theology for missionary work is kind of basic and obvious. She considers missionaries to be usually very good-hearted people, same as you would find working in education, childcare, or social work, people who have a strong religious belief, but who basically just change the environmental state of the people they are surrounded by – mostly in a good way. I tried to explain the concept of “incarnational missions” to her, but she didn’t seem to think it was much different from what she was talking about. “Living among the people and loving on them, isn’t that basically what you do?”

“Well, no, we also try to reach their souls.”

“Why?”

“Because we love them that much.”

“So does any atheistic do-gooder. You don’t have to be a Christian to love on people in third-world countries. And by trying to save all of them, you’re trying to change their natural lives. How can that be good for them to change who they fundamentally are into something that isn’t natural for them?

The world around the church, outside and separated, sees from its own perspective a very basic idea of what it means to be a missionary. The assumption commonly reported is that missionaries go into other countries, usually third-world countries, and do good deeds that will make the natives suddenly desire desperately to change themselves and become Christians. This representation, while still maintaining a part in the whole truth, is not quite adequate. In order to properly understand the entirety of what it means to be a missionary, we have to first understand three things: what we were created to be, what we have let ourselves become, and God’s plan to change that. The true dynamic involved in missions is not merely good deeds or words timely placed; we are called to restore the people of this world – the people that God has created – to their rightful places in His eyes. A ministry of restoration cannot be overlooked in any conceptualization of the missionary life. It is not natural for us to live in sin.

The first point to be addressed is the idea that we as human beings were created a certain way and for a certain purpose that we perhaps are not living up to now. When God first created the world, the story that is related in Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve lived a life that we have not been able to replicate no matter how many ingenious methods we employ. This shows that God created us with a certain model in mind, a model of “imago dei”; not necessarily an impossible model, or even a strict model that we should rebel against. Rather, this model implies that the life of a Christian is the life that we were created to live from the very beginning, and that sin is the deviation from that model.

The second point to consider is that we are not living the lives that we were created to live. In Romans chapter 1, verses 18-20, Paul says of all humans:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

This indicates that we all have an instinctive knowledge of the divine, and if we have an instinctive knowledge of the divine, then we must in some way be responsible for our actions or reactions thereupon. Further in Romans, chapter three verse twenty-three, Paul says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” giving way to the concept that we were made for a higher standard than we are currently living. Such is this that to be able to “fall short” of something, we must be working toward a goal – perhaps a goal of holiness and perfection? “Therefore you are to be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” So we can and should be living to a standard that we are not achieving, and that most of the world is unaware exists.

Finally, if we as Christians are aware of this model presented, of a life that we can achieve where our actions become “natural” in that they are sin-free, then how can we keep this wonderful truth to ourselves? Christ came to earth to pay a blood-bound penalty for our deviation of the natural, and to restore to us the power to change. When He healed a sick person, He said almost consistently alongside the healing “your sins are forgiven,” proving that there is a link between physical restoration and spiritual. Healing is a type of restoration that returns the ill person to that of their intended condition. Forgiveness, then, must follow the same path – forgiveness is to restore a person to the life that they were created to live.

As missionaries, our goal is to begin an expression of restoration among the nations. We are to be working to restore not only their physical condition (that of healing), but also their spiritual (that of forgiveness). Of course, a love for these people will naturally flow through us as we work, but this whole new perspective changes the undercurrent that will mark our behavior. We are not going out into the world to change who these people fundamentally are to something that is fundamentally different: we are going to restore them to their rightful status in God’s eyes. So many youth in the world crave a “revolution,” but what is that besides restoration? Without being raised up to who we are supposed to be by definition of being human, there is no chance for a change in the outlying world.

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