TODAY’S READING: 2 Corinthians 5–9
The Spirit is a guarantee of our heavenly home for which we earnestly groan. Missions is the earthly growl of longing for that day when we all get to heaven—all meaning representatives of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. According to Paul, missionary living, Christian living is always focused on the last day and the coming of King Jesus, which is why we persuade men and women of all peoples to repent. This is why the love of Christ compels us, this is why we are ambassadors for Christ with Christ pleading with us (2 Cor. 5:14, 20). Let us remember that the Bible’s promise of being a new creation is a missionary promise bounded and blessed in the context of all nations given invitation to eternal life.
The construction of “the love of Christ compels us” in Greek grammatically allows for triple application. It could mean that the love we have for the lost compels us to mission. It could mean that the love we have for Jesus compels us to mission. It could mean that the love Jesus has for the lost compels us to mission. Because the grammatical construction is flexible, context must help us discern the intended meaning. The first two options we discard, for we quickly find there are many days we do not love the lost and sadly on some days we do not love Jesus as we ought. Besides, God’s mission is too important to depend on the fickle love of man. The third option is true because only God’s love never wanes and because the text is universal in scope: we persuade men, Jesus died for all, if anyone is in Christ (vv. 11, 15, 17). How thankful we must be that the motivation for mission is God’s unfailing love, not man’s fickle, feeble emotion. Woe to the missionary who ventures forth armed only with their personal love for the lost.
Missionary living is holy living, living that gives no offense and has no liaisons with darkness (6:3, 14). Missionary practice does not allow or encourage local believers to stay in the demonic filth of false religions but calls unapologetically with the Spirit and Scripture: “Come out from among them and be separate” (v. 17). It is the weakest of strawmen to twist this call to holy living into non-contextualized or imperial missions. To be indigenous has never meant independence or sequestered living from the global body of Christ. Paul will go on to exhort the interdependence of the body practically, as financial giving is based in spiritual unity.
It is intriguing to note the exchange between the missionary, mission-sending church, and new church plant. The new church plant sent an offering to the saints and the saints back home sent their prayers and love, with both services extended with cheerfulness and thankfulness. When missions is construed and constructed as a one-way street where the physically rich but spiritually anemic West sends its controlling funds and diluted prayers to the Global South, it is denuded of power. When missions is truly bi-lateral and multi-directional, it is as much about receiving the strength and wisdom of others as it is about giving our meager offerings abroad; in this reciprocity is both great power and great joy.