Reconciliation and Mission

Written by Alan Foster, missionary in Panama

When Pastor Jeromy invited me to write on “reconciliation and our God-given task to be on mission,” it was cause for much self-reflection, so this is a letter to me.

When prompted, “What is God’s mission and how am I a part of it?” we may think immediately of the foreign mission field with cities full of idols and demonic strongholds or villages with hungry bellies, fear, and hopelessness… or we may think of our efforts closer to home to love our neighbor after a tornado or evangelize a co-worker. The simple answer is that God’s mission is to reconcile the world to himself. And the starting point for discovering God’s mission and God’s calling on my life is being reconciled to Him. (2 Cor. 5) And while reconciliations on earth with others can be drawn-out, messy, incomplete, or even humanly impossible, the beauty of the Gospel is the simplicity of reconciliation to Jesus. Just ask.

But let’s be realistic. We stumble. We drift. We get cold or complacent. We lose the uncontrollable fire that would have us shouting from the mountaintops, weeping for someone we’ve never met, giving beyond our means, or risking shame and rejection for God’s glory. And so, we must return to God and be reconciled yet again because we rejected him and joined the crowd of mockers and crucifiers. “Never!” boasts Peter in vain before failing to acknowledge his Savior. But we know that Peter perseveres with discipline.

I had a strong, healthy back for more than 2 years now, and it has been amazing… working with my hands, rough-housing with the kids, traveling in canoes for hours, hiking the jungle to find a water source, sleeping wherever. I’ve been busy and praised God regularly for good health. But while carrying rock and sand to make concrete yesterday, in the rain in a hurry, I returned to the familiar and hated feelings of pain and uselessness. It was my L4-L5 disc and the tell-tale sciatica. And I had a hike planned today to troubleshoot the aqueduct of the village I lived in 15 years ago…friends I hadn’t seen in a long time! Would they understand?!

I must admit, my helplessness makes me quick to run to God, and it seems to help put things in perspective and see how I have rejected Him… It helps me see how I can be on the foreign mission field, working hard, and ashamedly not even be on mission. I’ve been too busy… working with passion, but in haste.

We all wonder what God is doing, locally, nationally, or even globally, through covid-19 for the family in Christ. I wonder if one thing He is inviting us to evaluate is the busyness of our culture. Theologian Dallas Willard states “Haste has worry, fear, and anger as close associates. It is a deadly enemy of kindness, and hence of love.” He implores us to “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” But how do we do that? I have lists, plans, short-term and long-term goals, responsibilities to my wife and kids and communities. God doesn’t want His temples idle! Read Colossians for crying out loud! I rationalize my haste.

Yet haste seems to be one of the most subtle, justifiable, and sneaky ways that the devil can derail us. It seems to be a favorite tool of his for our era. North American culture rightly values hard work, punctuality, and organization. Scriptures warns us to avoid “idle chatter.” And so, we are an efficient, productive, professional people. I can pay bills and make deals from the computer I carry in my pocket.

However, when we unwittingly become gods of our own timeclock, we risk muffling active communion with the Holy Spirit without even realizing it. That is exactly what the evil one wants. My late grandmother remembered when Hwy 182 in Oakway was a dirt road, and I can imagine the similarities to life on our dirt road here in Catrigandí, Panama. And my busyness with all my “important” commitments contrasts sharply with the elderly couple across the road that prays for us every day. My busyness has, at times, precluded me from being the kindest, most loving person I can be towards them and others. Cultures change. Times change. Technology changes. But God and His Word and His invitation remains the same. I should focus on being before doing.

There is a certain irony that many people have enjoyed aspects of covid-19 quarantine measures, which have given them more time with their families or perhaps alone. Others couldn’t wait for school to reopen and get their cooped-up kids out of the house to be alone. There is also irony that Dallas Willard’s prescription for eliminating haste is not to go hang out with my neighbor all afternoon. Rather, be in solitude (a special kind of alone), …Be with God. “Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation, and loneliness.”

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster offers Scripture and quotes the classic heroes of Christian literature to ask us, “Don’t you long for something more? Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to His Presence? It is the Discipline of solitude that will open the door.” “God takes this useless discipline, this wasted time, and makes us His friend.” He will become more, and we will become less. And it is His presence in us that is His mission and ours. The rest is just details.

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