I am often overwhelmed with the idea of “mission”.
I am a self-admitted introvert. I like people enough, but I also really enjoy the time I have to myself. I think a lot, over analyze everything, am hyper observant, and time around people leaves me exhausted. In a conversation, I am analyzing motives and reading body language. I am attuned to people’s moods and their comfort within the situation at hand. I am constantly running things over in my mind. The only time my mind is not running a mile a minute is when I am alone; the sweet rest of solitude.
The idea of throwing myself into life with others in order to love and share life with them, can be a terrifying thought. I am inept, inadequate. I tire out.
Then there are those pesky scriptures reminding me to love my neighbor, go and make disciples, share everything with those in need, and live in community with people seeking to do that same. That really puts a damper on my alone time…
I was sitting outside on my back porch the other night, praying through my reluctance to be around people, especially in light of the neighborhood block party we were throwing the next night, and I was reminded of 1 John 4.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:7-21 (emphasis is mine)
I often read that passage and feel like a failure. As stated above, I have a hard time being around people, and so I leave this text with a huge burden. “How can I possible live this out?”
But that thought is all about me doing work, and not about God working at all. In those moments I feel overwhelmed, I placing the weight of this text on my shoulders. But after careful reading, and re-reading, I was struck by a couple of new things.
The first, which is what brought this text to mind as I sat on my porch, is that we love because He first loved us. The new part of that idea was this: I can’t/don’t have to conjure up love for people. I only need to have the perspective of people that God has. He loves us. He loves us first and best. Anything we conjure up on our own is just a shadow of His true love. We are only able to truly love when we act out of this understanding.
That was such a freeing thought to me. My neighbors, coworkers, friends, family….that is a lot of people to try and love on my own. But trusting that God loves them, and He loves them best, and is working for their good, frees me up to walk in faith of that love and point them to Him. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it sure resonates with me.
The second, and perhaps most important new take-away, was verse 13. We have been given His Spirit. It goes with the point above, and also brings freedom. We can trust that God is going to do what He pleases, and that we are in on the plan when He needs us to be. We just have to be putting ourselves in the posture for Him to work. Again, it’s a freeing thought. Not only does God love the people in our lives better than we do/can, but He also wants to use us as a vessel of that love, and he has given us the ability to be that vessel through His Spirit.
This post has become a lot more like a sermon than I originally intended. It started as a realization on my back porch that led me to worship Jesus. I was overwhelmed, feeling inadequate and exhausted, and the Lord showed me that He has got it all under control. Mission isn’t about me figuring out how to win people to Jesus, its about me walking in faith of His great love for people while being willing to be used to communicate that to them.
My love doesn’t change hearts, His does.