Key Texts: Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15-17; 1 John 2:16; John 3:14,15; 2 Cor. 5:21; Matt. 5:13,14.
The lessons this quarter invite us to focus on what we commonly call Christian mission. In fact, the adult lesson booklet – and let me insert a parenthetical remark here, that we do follow a lesson booklet that you can see for yourself by Googling “Sabbath School Lesson,” where you will find numerous links that you can follow – but the booklet we follow in making up these lessons is titled, “Missionaries.” So during the quarter we will be looking at various aspect of mission, what it is, why Christians are so interested in missionary work, why so many of them go even to foreign lands to engage in mission work.
This week, we are going to look at what might be called the foundation for Christian mission. Why is mission so important to Christians?
The answer to this question lies in a collection of stories that happen to be, to a large extent, at the very beginning of the Bible. The first two chapters of the Bible tell of the creation of the world. A point to be noticed in those stories is that human beings are differentiated from the rest of creation in the way they were made. Man and woman were created last, they were created by the personal actions of God, and they were made in the “image of God,” something that we never see fully defined. But we would not be far wrong if we concluded that being in the image of God means we have a sense of personhood, the ability to think and evaluate things, and we have the ability to choose between various options. Part of that ability to choose involves the ability to understand consequence and how it might affect our lives. Genesis 2:15-17 is a key passage when talking about free will, or the capacity to choose.
Think about the implications of humans having the ability to choose:
- What does this mean in terms of the commonly-voiced idea that God is in control of everything? Does that mean that God’s will is always done, or are there occasions when the will of God is not done?
- What happens to love is there is no freedom to choose? What would love for God look like if there was no freedom to choose?
- What does the freedom to choose imply when it comes to moral accountability? If we cannot choose freely, how would you hold a person accountable for their actions?
The Genesis story continues into Chapter 3 where tragedy unfolds. Adam and Eve exercise their ability to choose in a manner that is contrary to the will of God (Genesis 3:6, 7). Because of the specific instructions given by God that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their actions amounted to a contravention of the will of God and consequences ensued. Some consequences came immediately, some came along the way, and some came much later in their lives. Whatever the case, they lost their original place in God’s order.
The remarkable thing in the scriptural record is that God did not run away from Adam and Eve. Though distance had to be created because of the entrance of sin into the world, God did not abandon his now lost creation. Instead, he devised a way in which to save it. It turns out that God’s plan was not easy, it has proven to be very costly, it has had to be played out over the span of history, and it will be at least minimally capable of saving those who believe. These various elements ought to give us pause for much thought for the plan to save humans is both complicated and very costly, first to heaven, but also to humans.
When we speak, then, of Christian mission, we ought to see it in light of God’s plan to save his lost creation. The mission God took upon himself to save planet earth and those on it, turns out to be a distributed mission. It was shared with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and it is share also with human beings. This sharing of mission becomes clear when we see Jesus coming to earth to be born a human while retaining his divinity. It is seen in the various descriptions of the work that is done by the Holy Spirit. And it is seen in the various metaphors Jesus used when talking about his Father’s plan to save earth that those who have come to faith are to be as light or salt to the earth. Both light and salt have the capacity to infiltrate and affect that which is around them.
The plan of God is something that warrants some careful thought and attention. Some questions you might ponder are these:
- How do you think Gold is going to save the world from sin and still preserve the capacity to choose?
- What would you think of a God who has a plan to save out of sin those who believe who can do so while preserving the ability to choose which is so necessary to the existence of love?
- What kind of attitude to you find inside yourself when you think of God as one who did not run away from sin, but put himself right into the middle of it?
- Does the lost-ness of humanity juxtaposed over against the plan of God to save sinners create any urgency in your own life that you should acknowledge?
- How do you think you might participate in carrying out the plan of God? Do you see any local dimension to this mission, or is it only for overseas?