“All my forefathers have passed away into darkness without knowing anything of what was to befall them; how is it that your forefathers knowing all these things, did not send word to my forefathers sooner?” ~ African chief to missionary David Livingstone
I love reading the quotes of past missionaries and people who gave their lives to be about the Lord’s business. I was deeply touched when I studied through church history, and especially inspired by those from the missionary era such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and Hudson Taylor. I think that all Christians should be a bit (maybe alot) more radical ( in modern terms that means crazy) just like those who spread the Gospel in the book of Acts. The apostle Paul said he desired to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. These were’nt just words from Paul, but the reality of a crazy person committed to Jesus.
When I read this quote from an African Chief the early missionary David Livingstone came into contact with, it stopped me in my tracks. Usually, the quotes and stories I read are from the perspective of those bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard, but this was a different perspective. This was a man who come to the truth, realized that Jesus was the only way to be saved, knew that in order to believe someone had to hear the gospel, and he wanted to know why no one came sooner. He wanted to know why when Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) it took the body of Christ close to 2,000 years to come to his village. I think that is very good question. I think it is a question that we as the body of Christ have a responsibility to answer, and hopefully it causes us to hear the words of Jesus and amend our ways.
Here are a few quotations from Jesus:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” -John 4:34-35
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” -John 3:17
(To His disciples) “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” -John 20:21
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” -John 17:20
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:37-40
These are just a few of the words of Christ regarding what He came to do ( The name Jesus means God is salvation, and His name implied His mission), and the work He left for His followers, not to mention anything of what Paul and the rest of the epistles say regarding our responsibility (See Romans 10:14-17)
The section of scripture I want to direct us to is the last one I listed from Matthew 22. I think two good questions for those who belong to Christ, and have received His love, forgiveness, grace, and salvation are how do we love God with everything we have and how do we love our neighbor as our self?
First, how do we love God with everything we have? As I am writing this my wife is snuggled up with her little sister. They aren’t doing much, they’re eating popcorn, watching a movie, talking with each other. They are spending time together. They love each other, and it is a blessing to see it. The same thing is done with those who love God. We spend time with Him. We get to know Him. We first know He has saved us, and then because of that knowledge we want to get to know this heavenly Father who will love us forever absolutely perfectly. In short, we abide with Him (John 15).
When we abide in Him, and spend time with Him something funny happens. We become more like Him. We take on His character and His nature, the things that are important to Him become important to us, and things He loves and hates we begin to love and hate as well.
Have you ever noticed a couple that has been happily married for 50 years? They have grown from being two individuals into being one beautiful married couple. They eat dinner at the same time, they go to bed at the same time, they enjoy the same vacations, and they watch the same movies. They have rubbed off on each other. Jesus prayed that believers would be one with Him as He was one with the Father (John 17). Becoming one with Jesus and the Father is loving God.
Another way we love God, is obeying what He said to do (John 14:15) Let me ask you this (and parents may understand this better than others) would you be happy with your child when he brings you a daisy after he had just ignored every chore you had given them to do, thrown paint all over the living room, wrecked the project in the garage you had been working on for 6 months, and to top it off misrepresented your most precious family values to everyone they came into contact with? We don’t need to go into the type of reaction that would create, but needless to say the daisy wouldn’t be received too well. The same principle can be applied to our relatioship with God. He is not looking for the big sacrificial gift, but a life that adheres to His nature and commands(1 Samuel 15:22). In short, if we are to love God we need to hear what He says, and then do what He instructs.
Secondly, How do we love our neighbors? Well, first we need to define neighbor in order to get the right eye-level to carry out this command. The word neighbor here means Biblically A) A freind B) any other person, and where two are concerned, the other (thy fellow man, thy neighbour), according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth C) according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion (See John 3:16, He so loved the World) with whom we live or whom we chance to meet (BLB.org, Strong’s concordance, Outline for Biblical Usage)
So, now that we have neighbor defined, how do we love them as ourself? Let me ask you this Christian, what is the best thing that has ever happened to you or been given to you? It must be the salvation of God, forgiveness of sin, and a relationship with Jesus Christ our creator. To be born-again and know God is the single most importnant and wonderful thing that can happen in a human life. If everything else in my life is a failure, and I am homeless and starving without a penny to my name, but I belong to Christ than I am eternally rich beyond every sense of the word. So, there are many ways we can love one another as we walk in the spirit, but there can be no better demonstration of love than for us to lay down our selfish desires in order to bring someone else to their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Why do bring all this up? As we string together what it means to love God and love people I think it should motivate us to spread the gospel of Christ to those immediately around us, and also to those all over the world. Jesus loved people. He loved them so much He humbled himself by coming out of heaven and subjecting Himself to all the weakness of His creation, and relegated Himself to being killed by that creation all so he could end world hunger… wait that’s not it. He came to this earth to pay the price man’s sin deserved, so that any who would come to Him and believe in Him would be saved from the punishment due those sins. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Go back to the African Chief who said why didn’t you come sooner. The Bible says God loved his forefathers deeply, and the Bible says Jesus sent us to finish His work of salvation just as the Father sent Jesus. I can’t go back and redo Christian History. In fact I can’t do anything of myself period. I can’t even keep myself from catching a cold, but what I can do is hear the words of Jesus and lift up eyes and see that the fields are ripe for harvest NOW. I can begin to lift my eyes up and take them off myself, my wants, my career, my entertainment, my things, and my comfort; and begin to love others enough to bring them the only thing that can change a life and save a soul. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wasn’t ashamed of it because he understood these things and so much more. Because he understood the weight of the gospel and the world’s need for it, he spent His life getting this message and this Savior out to the world. When Paul was done he received a crown and a hearty well done good and faithful servant from God his Father. What about us?