What comes to your mind when you hear the word “missions?” If you are like I was for most of my life, “missions” conjures up images of North Americans serving people in thatched huts in far flung locales. Or, perhaps missions reminds you of various short-term trips you’ve been blessed to be part of. For most of us, missions involves serving people with extreme needs far from where we live. People like me, who serve in foreign countries, are seen as missionaries, and the rest of us see ourselves as “church members.” Here, however, is the truth. We are all missionaries. All followers of Christ Jesus are called to a mission: to serve others with the love of Christ. Some of us are indeed called to do so in distant lands. Others are called to serve right where they are in North America. Neither calling is better than the other, because both callings are biblical and important. No matter who you are, or where you are, God is calling you to serve and love where you are.
Right before Jesus ascended into Heaven he gave his disciples final instructions for serving the world in his physical absence.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
At the time, the disciples were near Jerusalem, so to be Jesus’ witnesses there meant to love exactly where they were. Judea would have referred to an area similar to their state and Samaria to a region similar to a country. To this Jesus adds “to the ends of the Earth,” proclaiming that His message of love and salvation was to be spread everywhere. Jesus is telling the disciples they need to first love others right where they are: Jerusalem. Once they have done that they can spread His love to their state, nation, and the world. Jesus does not say that one of these callings is higher than the other. He simply says that we are called to love the world around us.
The point is, we are called to love others wherever we happen to be called in the world. My family happens to be called to Nicaragua, a call God made clear to us over a period of years. However, that is no more important than your call to live and serve New Sharon, Pella, Oskaloosa, Knoxville, Iowa, Illinois, the United States, etc. Wherever you are, demonstrate God’s love to others there. Jesus put this powerfully in what is known as the Great Commandments.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
Wherever you are, love those around you. Don’t think of missions as something done only via church programs, trips, or professional missionaries. Instead, accept Jesus’ call to love your neighbors wherever you are.