Tag Archives: mission work

set in stone? really?

22 Mar

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted the following question as a status update on Facebook:

“As someone who has done mission work, would you say that it is important to figure out ahead of time those doctrinal matters that are not open for multiple interpretations? I’ve been struggling with this idea that there are certain things that are universal, gospel truth, and other things that are simply products of our culture, and how do we tell the difference as we take the message of Christ to other cultures?”

For those who don’t know, my husband Ed and I worked full-time with a small church in Chemnitz, Germany, from 2001-2007. Our primary function was to “surface contacts” for the church and then have one-on-one Bible studies with those who were interested in delving beneath the surface. I could write an entire book on this work and on all the other things we did during our time in Chemnitz, but for now, let’s make do with the short version, what say? ; )

With that to give a little bit of background, here is the response I gave to my friend’s question:

I’ve been pondering such things since “leaving” the mission field four years ago. (I don’t really like using the terms “leaving” and “mission field,” but they keep things simple.)

The only thing I know for sure is that if I were entering the same work today, I would (1) see my own role much differently, (2) approach relationships differently, (3) teach some things that I didn’t understand 10 years ago…

…and (4), in regard to this question, *not* teach several things that I once believed were “universal, gospel truth.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe that there are universal truths in/of the gospel (defining gospel as the Good News of Jesus). But an interesting thing I’ve found about living life by an indwelling Christ: The more deeply rooted I’ve become in Christ, the more I’ve realized that I misunderstood a great many things and held fast to certain “doctrines” that, as it turns out, aren’t nearly as set-in-stone as they once seemed.

The result, unfortunately, is that I can look back over the course of my full-time ministry and see quite a few places where I totally screwed up.

(For the record, I don’t beat myself up about this; I believe that God can and does [and did] work powerfully through a flawed tool and will continue to do so [seeing as how the tool is still flawed!].)

I might go so far as to say that it’s dangerous to “figure out ahead of time those doctrinal matters that are not open for multiple interpretations”; I say this because of my own experience in realizing that the indwelling life of Christ allows us a whole lot more freedom than I ever suspected.

On the other hand, nor do I advocate entering the “mission field” with any kind of there-is-no-absolute-truth attitude. Maybe it’s about “everything in moderation”: finding a balance between the two. Maybe it’s not about balance but about accepting the season of Christian life one finds oneself in and going forward in faith that God will guide as he sees fit — and humbly accepting his correction along the way.

All I know for certain is that Christ is in the business of “making all things new” — and that includes our understanding of doctrine, if we let him.

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we are everywhere in chains

21 Nov

Back when I was a fulltime missionary (2001-2007) and until January of this year, I kept a blog called thegermanygirl: ruminations.

The reasons I haven’t posted on that blog in nearly a year are myriad, but suffice it to say that because of my many other endeavors, I simply haven’t had time to ruminate anything for the “old” blog.

But.

When I checked my email this morning, I found a notification of a new comment on one of my thegermanygirl posts. The comment and my reply to it are worth sharing here:

“Tony” writes:

I see from your Profile that you believe that “Jesus sacrificed himself for the eternal freedom of humanity”.

Most people agree with Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains”: this must mean that the sacrifice was in vain.

I guess you must have read him, so presumably your observation of the world differs from Rousseau’s. Or perhaps two thousand years has not been enough, and we must wait longer for our eternal freedom.

I replied:

You might think it strange enough, but I agree with Rousseau (whom I have, indeed, read). I’ve never belonged to that segment of the Christian population that believes in original sin; I have never believed that any of us is born tainted. We are truly born free in every sense of the word. We are born innocent, untainted, fresh, new.

But I believe we put ourselves in chains as we carry on our lives and make our choices. We say and do things that cause each other pain, and each word or action that causes pain is just another chain we clamp around our own wrists. There is not a single one of us who has not caused harm to another.

We are “everywhere in chains” because we lock ourselves away from each other and lock ourselves away from the one power in the universe that can break down all the doors and unlock all the chains.

The sacrifice that Jesus made was not in vain, because the freedom he offers is available to anyone who wants it. The crux of the matter is that he can’t give freedom to those who don’t want it. He won’t force his freedom on anyone. Each of us will spend eternity exactly the way we want to. And that’s the most liberating part of the whole deal.

____________________________

I hope my response to Tony will challenge him to think further on Christ instead of pushing him away. It’s so difficult to know how my typed words will come across to someone who lives on the other side of the world (I checked his Blogger profile). Communicating tone is nigh on impossible in blog comment format! Ugh. And we’re missing every nuance of body language, which tells so much more than words.

Still, I hope that I said what Christ would want me to say and in the way he would want me to say it. That’s pretty much all I can do.