We Christians are a people who have been sent. Apostles. Envoys. In a long line of sent people, we are part of the Apostolic Church. We have a mission, the mission of God, which is to bring God’s healing and liberation to others.
The Franciscan Third Order, to which I and my wife Rae belong, states ‘Our primary aim is to make Christ loved and known.’ By virtue of our baptism, every one of us is called to evangelism, to respond to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:10).
Some are called, like Billy Graham or Saint Augustine, to preach to stadiums and summon people to respond to the message. But that kind of evangelism is the exception, not the rule.
We are called to live the Gospel and let our lives be the message.
Living the Gospel means at least three things.
Firstly our lives display our openness to God’s healing and liberation. We should live with integrity, our standards being higher than those the wider community demands, so that people can see God’s goodness in us. Christians don’t fudge our tax returns and we don’t steal from workplaces or shops, or from anyone, for that matter. We live the Gospel and let our lives do the talking. A saying attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi puts it this way, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.’
Secondly, Christians care passionately. Christians actively love wife or husband, children and those they meet every day. We refuse to take them for granted. We care about the hungry, the homeless and the refugee. We worry about the systemic racism which allows higher rates of incarceration for blacks. We raise our voices to protest the culture which leads to deaths in custody.
We resist the temptation to tear down our leaders and look instead for opportunities to build them up. Being loved by God, we actively allow God’s love to flow through us and bring other people and all creatures the healing and liberation God wants.
Thirdly, we allow ourselves to be healed and freed. We can bring healing to others only as we open ourselves to be changed for the better. We work to know ourselves better so that we can be better instruments of God’s care. We seek to free ourselves from those hidden habits and attitudes which can harm our relationships with others.
All this we do – and it can feel overwhelming if we forget that it is not our initiative, it is not our mission. It is God who sends us, and God who empowers us.
As we return to our churches to worship, we are aware that at the end of every Eucharist we are sent out: ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’ That is who we are: people sent by God.