By Kevin Granger
“God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes.No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II – REDEMPTORIS MISSIO
For many of us, the impression we have of Jesus is largely determined by our exposure as a child. Our parents’ teaching, Sunday school, catechism classes, etc…these are our first glimpses of Christ, and many of us don’t develop further after we leave home. But unless you dive headfirst into Scripture, you may find yourself stuck with a childlike impression of our Lord. At some point in my early adult life, I suddenly realized that my knowledge of Scripture was shamefully limited. I craved more.
There is no better place to start, in my opinion, than with the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. Those Biblical books give you a good look at Jesus, and the account of what the Apostles (the ones closest to Him) did immediately following His death. On my first mission trip, I first encountered Matthew 10:34-40. Go on, read it. That’s a challenge!
The Jesus I encountered in Scripture wasn’t the watered down, peace sign waving, quasi-hippie Jesus that our society likes to make Him out to be. Jesus was a revolutionary, a rebel, a warrior of God. The real Jesus refused to be what society tried to dictate for Him, knowing that He was called to a higher purpose. He set a standard for Himself, and required nothing less of those that followed Him. We would be foolhardy to think that He requires anything less of us now.
For too long have we as men been pampered by the easy-to-digest preaching of modern Christianity. In an effort to make the Gospel more appealing, we are frequently fed these altruistic slices of Scripture without being given the full message. We take the meat out of it, and leave in the “feel good” parts. I believe that people are falling away from the Church in droves because this meat is missing. I believe as men, our hearts cry for something more. We crave a challenge, we crave a fight. Brothers, there is more.
Jesus didn’t spend His time building a church, and passing out flyers to people to come hear Him preach. He went and sought out the lost. He slept in the desert, in caves, walked miles on end, rested little, ate little, and left all His comforts behind to reach His lost sheep. This is what He wants from us. There are more people in need today than the days when Christ walked the earth, and what are we doing? That is the call to missions, and that is the call of Christ.
It was in missions that I first surrendered control of my life completely to God. The truth of course is that we are all living in the mercy of God. Whatever illusions of control we may be tempted to think we have are all only those which God allows us to have. Make no mistake: He is in control! Our temptation as men is to try to be the providers, the leaders, the captain of the ship…It is a good and natural instinct for us to want to be in control of our lives. But it is not until we acknowledge our weaknesses and our limitations that we can become truly wise and truly strong. Missions gave that to me.
I still find myself trying to snatch the reins out of God’s hands from time to time, but I know where they belong now. In missions, you are working completely for the Lord. Where am I going to sleep? What am I going to eat? How will my child get the medical care he/she needs? Real-life questions that need answering and you are forced to let God provide. The beauty is that He does provide…and in abundance! My family and I have never gone without, never died of sickness, never slept out in the cold. I can honestly say that my family and I have eaten more grand feasts, stayed in mansions, and seen the world in ways I could never have done “providing” for myself.
Missions forces you to go to that edge, that place where the rubber meets the road. Outside of the world of “you,” and way outside of your comfort zone. The beauty of that place is that it is where you can literally see God’s hand working, the place where miracles of Biblical proportions take place: healings, visions, God’s wonders. This pure abandon is what mission requires, and it is how missions has made me a better man.
A wise man once told me that if you think God might be calling you to missions, then He probably is. Say yes to living radically for the Gospel. What do you have to lose? In the end, there is nothing else. Let’s take our faith back, let’s take our world back. Are you man enough?