BY THE REV DR CHAN NAM CHEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ASIA-CMS
In the last few months, the courage and commitment of many frontline responders against the Covid-19 threat in Wuhan have been simply astounding. Volunteers pitch in to drive medical staff and sick patients in sheer defiance of a highly contagious disease. Medical staff work daily for long hours, often to the point of exhaustion.
A video that went viral shows a nurse on her mobile being informed of her mother’s death. Heartbroken and in tears, she bows three times in the direction of her home-city to pay her respects to her mom, and then she turns straight back to the work at hand.
Gospel-centred motivations for God’s mission
Such heroism brings to question our Christian commitment to God’s mission. What drives us? What motivations will enable us to keep giving of ourselves when the going gets rough and the demands feel overwhelming?
When resources run low and emotions run raw as we simultaneously wrestle with our own ongoing personal and family concerns, what will sustain us – not just for days and months, but for a lifetime of service?
Human motivations are complex, multi-layered and they run the whole gamut – from the good to the bad.
Pushing aside motives that are selfish and carnal, and to go beyond shallow idealism and emotionalism, I propose that only gospel-centred motivations – shaped and emanating from the gospel – will stand the tests of time and trials.
These are core motivations that we intentionally nurture over time. They become convictions imprinted into the depths of our beings, carefully cultivated in response to the wooing of God’s Spirit.
What are gospel-centred motivations?
First, it stems from the conviction that the gospel asserts a reconciliation with God that is found only in Jesus Christ. This is a core component of the gospel message.
In a world of many faiths and alternative worldviews, such an assertion can be easily slammed as arrogance. In some Asian countries and certain societies, there is also a visceral hostility toward the Christian faith. Presentations of the gospel message are taboo and at times illegal.
For these reasons, many Christians shy away or cannot explicitly share the gospel message. For mission workers in locations that are anti-Christian, the only means of communicating God’s intents in the gospel are often through activities that lovingly serve the social and development needs of that society.
In these restrictive contexts, we all the more need to nurture this deep inner conviction that reconciliation with God is only possible through Christ.
It will motivate us to exhaust all avenues so that individuals who do not know Christ will hear the gospel and have their God-encounters.
It will lead us to pray intensely because we know that where we cannot, God can.
Authentic and mutual
We will seek to build authentic and mutually reciprocal relationships with individuals of other faiths so that perchance we can share the gospel in culturally appropriate ways.
We will also find means to facilitate the gospel-sharing efforts of Christians and mission workers amongst peoples that we cannot personally access – through our prayers, finances and other means of support.
Gospel-centred motivations are based on the perspective that the gospel impacts all spheres of human life. God’s mission is ultimately the reconciliation of everything in his creation. The Anglican Communion’s five marks of mission aptly summarise the key thrusts:
- to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
- to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
- to respond to human need by loving service;
- to transform unjust structures of society; and
- to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation.
Having this perspective will motivate us to contribute and serve faithfully in activities that might otherwise be viewed as mundane and insignificant.
Collective effort, personal commitment
Most importantly, gospel-centred motivation is the constant awareness that the gospel demands a personal response of obedience to God himself.
The gospel – Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection – is a call to personal repentance and submission to his lordship. It is a restoration of divine order at every level. While service to God is usually best done in a community, the sustaining motivations are often deeply personal.
He is a personal God. He has personally crafted into each of us his purposes that are best served through our unique personalities and capabilities. Thus, our service to God is not to be offered or calibrated based on merely what we see other Christians do. We live and serve based on what he has personally spoken into the depths of our hearts.