As Christ was sent by the Father, so he sends us into the world, John 20:19-23
In the beginning God saw all that he had made and saw that it was good, indeed, very good. Though the world was created good, when sin came into the world, with it came death and all the evils related to it. Through Christ, there will be a new heaven and a new earth but at this present time is a time pain and suffering, sometimes great pain and suffering, because of sin. This applies even to Christians, who experience in part now the new life in Christ and God’s blessing of the age to come. In that final day God will bring into being a New Heaven and a New Earth, there will no longer be any more pain or suffering. This provides the context for what may be called Mission, the going into the world by the Christian in imitation of Christ and in obedience to the two great commands or commissions of the Bible. The first of these commissions is inherent in the Creation and dates from the very beginning. Jesus summarized it as the command to love God with all our being and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). The second commission, though in God’s mind before the creation (Ephesians 1:3-10) dates from the entrance of sin into the world, and specifically after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the command to go into the world and proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:6-8).
The relationship between these two commissions is sometimes debated but if both are seen as expressions of love then their unity becomes evident. We reach out to help others in need of any kind kind because we love them, and we proclaim the Gospel, the good news concerning Jesus, also because we love them. Even as people have needs tied to life here and now, so they have eternal needs, and even as we care about their eternal needs because of love, so love demands that we care about their needs here and now (Matthew 6:25-34; James 2; 1 John 4:20). Further, the Gospel brings us into relationship with God now. We start to experience now the life which is to come. Hence, the Gospel has a promise not just for eternity but for this life as well. There is no greater life than to walk with Christ all the years of our life here, no greater gift which can be given.
Mission has been interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Some are obvious, like planting churches, evangelism and relief work, but education/schools, hospitals, political organisations and so on are also examples of mission. Further, the Bible says Jesus is Lord over all of life, and that we are to worship God in all aspects of our lives, meaning that mission also applies to our day to day relationships and our vocations. The term missionary often is taken to refer to going to another nation or to another culture, but mission means living in the Spirit of the Son who was sent by the Father and who now sends us, regardless of how or where it is expressed.
This unit raises three large questions:
- Why does God allow suffering in the world?
- Why does God allow suffering in the life of a believer?
- What should our response be to that suffering in both instances?
**This is a very personal unit, as every student, and some to a large extent, will have personal experience of suffering. It thus speaks to one of the defining realities of our world and of each of our own lives. As part of this, even in this life, suffering does not have the final word. Christians already experience, in part, the life which is to come and it is to this that we point. This is not to discount what God has told us about the nature of suffering, for he created our minds and we cannot ignore the need to seek understanding, but it does point to our limitations as finite beings. In the end, only God knows, and the final answer will only be found in Christ as he hangs on the cross.
***Of the two commissions, the first applies to all people at all times, that is the call to love our neighbour aspect, regardless of their faith in God or not. The concept of mission as reaching out to help those in need and seeking in general to make the world a better place is something all students can be expected to understand and to which they should respond. The second commission, the call to proclaim the Gospel to all the world, making disciples of all nations, can only really be understood by those who are Christians. This distinction should be kept in mind as not all students we teach will be believers.
- God created all things good
- The first commission is to love God and to love our neighbour is a Creation mandate
- Sin destroyed our relationship with God and is the cause of all suffering in the world, both now and into eternity
- Jesus was sent as the full solution to all the effects of sin
- The second or Great commission is the command to proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the Father sent Jesus, so we are now sent.
- We live now in the time between the entrance of sin and the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth
- Christians now experience in part that new life which is to come with its blessings but are not thereby exempted from the present suffering of this age
- For believers, God allows pain and suffering but uses it to the glory of God and to the ultimate benefit of the believer
- For those outside of Christ, pain and suffering come first from sin in general, and may come because of individual sin and in some cases may be the judgement of God
- Christ is God's answer to the dilemma as to why there is pain. Philosophy has its place and our mind is restless for answers but in the end only faith in Christ and a relationship with God will answer the cry of our hearts
- In the end, either by salvation or by final judgement, all sin and pain will be removed from the universe
- The key question is, how will we respond to God’s call to love a broken world?
The Two Commissions
Genesis 1 - all things created good
Genesis 3-6 - the downward spiral to the flood
Genesis 6-9 - the judgement of the flood
Genesis 12 and onwards - the call of Abram and Sarai that through them the whole world might be blessed, meaning Jesus
John 3:16-23 - God sent his Son
Matthew 22:34-40 - the Creation commission to love God and to love our neighbour (see also Matthew 6:25-34; James 2; 1 John 4:20)
John 20:19-23 - as the Father sent Jesus, so now Jesus sends us
Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:6-8 - the second or Great commission
Genesis 1 - all things created good
Genesis 3-6 - the entrance of sin and the downward spiral to the flood
Genesis 6-9 - the judgement of the flood
Romans 5:1-5; 8:28; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9 - God uses our suffering for his purposes
Revelation 20-21 - the final judgement and a New Heaven and a New Earth
Luke 23:39-43 - The answer the thief needed was not an explanation but a new life
Luke 4:14-21 - this is what Jesus came to bring and what Christians are called to testify about and so call others to receive
Acts 2:14-47 - Jesus has opened the door so that all people might experience the ultimate and final answer to sin and pain
1 Cor 15:22-26 - the the final enemy to be destroyed will be death
Job 1-2 and 38-42 - Satan's wager with the Lord that people only serve the Lord because of his blessings and so all service is nothing but hypocrisy
http://catholicpreaching.com/pope-francis-dream-of-the-missionary-transformation-of-the-church-the-anchor-december-6-2013/ - an interpretation of what mission means by the current Pope
Listing of some various Christian Organisations illustrating some of the ways mission is interpreted:
Why would God allow suffering? - Creation International site
Veritas Videos on the issue of suffering
Ideas/Strategies for Lessons
**The tendency is take the easy road and turn mission into nothing more than doing good things. This is an inadequate vision of mission. The Great Commission is not optional and ultimately a persons response to Jesus is the most important question of life. Christianity is not simply about being nice.
Mission is a very personal question concerning God's will for our lives. How do we discern God's will for us?
Show the idea of mission by inviting in representatives from any of the organizations listed above, researching them, doing a Skype link up foe example and getting students to ask questions
Invite in people from local churches and/or groups who can share what they are doing and why
Tackle the questions: Why does a good God allow suffering? Get students to research the question and run a seminar type format on it. How would they answer someone who challenged them on how a good God could allow suffering?
Use the Veritas videos (perhaps part of a video) or similar videos to stimulate discussion
Research a need in local community and think of how to meet that need
Volunteer to help in existing care organisations and charities
Fund raise for a good cause
Acts of service/donations
Go through Mission trips options which are available and which students might consider
Some people see evangelization as a kind of imperialism. In some countries trying to convert someone from one religion to another is illegal (mostly Muslim countries but India is also looking at this). Discuss
In some nations, China for example, all preaching of the Gospel, except in the state controlled churches, is illegal. How does mission function in these situations?
In some settings, if someone turns to Christ then it means being ostracized by their family and community and may even mean physical danger, including death. What is the right thing to do in such circumstances?