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« "Yes, Lord!" Initiative | Main | The Time Has Arrived for An Ancient Evangelical Future »

November 26, 2006


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There's only one reason, that we have mission on our mind, instead of witness. The missionary mindset tries to force-feed the idea that everyone must hear the gospel, believe and be saved. Inherent in that mindset is the notion that "I am right and you are wrong". The witness is content in the notion that every bit of mercy is a result of "my being transformed by God", that this will shine through and ignite a sparkle of desire in the other to have what I have - or not, but on his/her own terms. No "right-wrong" agenda involved.

While the former mind set smacks of "phariseeism", the latter seems to me a reflection of Jesus' treatment of people, especially those marginalized by society (i.e. tax-collectors and sinners) with whom he ate and drank.

I think the reason is that we don't see ourselves as servants. When we truly see ourselves as servants of others and we really begin to love, we'll feed them, and amazingly God will use it as a witness to the goodness of Jesus Christ somehow, whether we do bible studies, prayer, or not. We haven't learned yet that "Love Never Fails."

It'a a shame that this is the norm. I think Christians who approach feeding the hungry 'with strings attached' are well intentioned but missing an important point. How can we preach an unconditinal love and grace when the menas by which we demonstrate that love are conditional?

Carlos --

Thanks for differentiating between mission and witness. It seems to be an increasingly important distinction as we scrutinize where the Church has been.



John L.,

"Love never fails" -- this is the very concept that I've been preoccupied with over the past month. In how we respond to various people and situations, why don't we embrace this as a "strategy" that cannot lose?

Thanks for what you've added to the discussion.



John S.

"How can we preach an unconditinal love and grace when the menas by which we demonstrate that love are conditional?"


Thank you for stating this so clearly.



Perhaps followers of Jesus simply need a sense of desperation that serving others is a matter of life not death (play on words intended). I'm thinking of my alcoholic and addict friends who have learned the honor and necessity to live a life of service (and taught me this) as part of their recovery maintanence.

Maybe the real "right-wrong" issue is not whether I'm right and someone else is wrong but the issue is that serving the least of these is the right thing to do.

In Christ,

Good question, Chris. I'll venture a few possibilities:

1. It has to do with how we define the Gospel, the Kingdom, and what comes after Jesus' return.

2. It has to do with the individualistic, consumptive nature of contemporary Christianity.

3. It gives us an out, an escape that frees us from having to serve.

I think Carlos hits the nail on the head. A few days after Sept, 11, 2001 my bishop, myself and a several other priests went down to the site. One of the issues that disturbed us the most was that several church groups were down there "capitolizing" on the event to save souls. They were not there to comfort, they were there to convert. After a few days they were asked to leave and only Catholic clergy were allowed. We were also permitted. There were numerous police and fierfighters who would stop clergy and ask us to hear their confession. In the midst of this my bishop and I had a conversation that concluded like this, "the protestant paradigm is to bring people to Jesus, a catholic (meant here as historic and orthodox) one is to bring Jesus to people." This evangelical strength is also modern Protestantisms greatest weakness And it drives everything. And probably one of the reasosn that cultural communcation (or enculturation) drives the shape of much of what is wrongly called "church" today.

Why do many Christians make feeding Jesus so complicated? Why aren't they willing to serve at their neighborhood shelter unless they're allowed to lead a little bible study or preach the gospel or at least pray with the clients? Why can't Christians simply love the unfortunate for love's own sake, or extend acts of kindness without any strings attached?

Two reasons.

1st reason. They are unable to see Jesus Christ in the 'least of these'.

2nd reason. They don't perceive that they are no better or worse than the homeless.

They have lost the fact that we are all just beggars at the Father's throne. That all security is an illusion -- and that most of us are only a few paychecks away from the street ourselves.



Great point, Fr. Matt! The catholic way is to bring Jesus to the masses. I can hear echo's of the pharisees criticism of Jesus: "He's eating and drinking with whores and sinners".

I want to give credit where credit is due, the distinction betw. mission and witness is not my own but Hans Küng's, from a lecture 14 years back. He, of course is a (good) catholic.

Come to think of it, there is a catholic mission too. And it brings gentiles to Jesus and vice versa. However, it also brings the knowlege and wisdom from the gentiles back to the church, doesn't it? Just thinking out loud.

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