I pretty much imbibed the Great Commission with my mother's milk. I cannot remember a time when I didn't know about Jesus' command to 'go into all the world' - and that he expressed it on five different occasions in the New Testament.
But here I am at 49 with a global mission role beckoning later this week and if I am honest I'd have to say that the Great Commission has not really figured in my overt motivation. Oh - it is still there and it is still important, yes it is - but it is just that these other bits of the Bible have captivated me and finally snookered me.
the origins of humanity
I have been aching about a passing phrase in Paul's speech at Athens. It has been decisive. "From one person God created all peoples." (Acts 17:26) All of humanity descends from the same person. God looks down from heaven and sees past our racial and national boundaries to the common equality and dignity and value which we share. Racism is repulsive. Patriotism is not far behind. Categories like colour and culture and continent and cash are irrelevant. Thinking about this as I stood yesterday with my kids at the Auckland InterCultural Festival watching Ethiopia play Somalia in the soccer final was special. I want my life to reflect this motivation.
the oneness of the church
This one started when I began messing around with 1 Corinthians 12 and the sicknesses afflicting that local church. 'Let's imagine this to be the global church, not a local church'. Now what?! Those parts of the global body that seem to be weaker become indispensable. Those parts that we think are less honourable, we treat with special honour. And "if one part suffers, every part suffers with it." Come on - we love going on and on about globalisation and how the globe has shrunk into a village - blah, blah, blah ... Listen - globalisation has massive implications for Christians. The global church becomes like a local church. "We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear; and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear." I want my life to reflect this motivation.
the genius of incarnation
The Bible tells us that "the Word - Jesus - became a human being and moved into the neighbourhood" (John 1:14). God is so committed to humanity that he became one of us. What's more, God delights in the diversity of languages and cultures that come with being human. As Lamin Sanneh expresses it, "The God to whom the Scriptures witness is available in the common language of marginalised peoples all over the world. There is nothing God wants to say to any of them that cannot be communicated through their simple everyday language." I want my life to reflect this motivation.
the reality of injustice
To read the prophets of the Old Testament is to read about a God who hates injustice. The God who judges is every bit as important as the God who loves. If you don't think so, try conveying that to the peoples of the world mired in injustice - and then go back and read Psalm 96. One of the most vibrant of all the songs of praise and worship - yes, one of those ones where the heavens, the sea, the fields and the trees are singing - and what is the attribute of God about which they sing? "He comes to judge the earth. (v13)" If all you want to do is sing about God's grace and that's it - that says something! You know when you are caught within the iniquities and inequities of this world - because you'll want to sing about his judgement. I want my life to reflect this motivation.
the prospect of heaven
A place of "no more death or mourning or crying or pain?" (Rev 21:4) A place where every 'tribe and language and people and nation' hang out together? A place where all evil is judged and all good is vindicated – and that for all time? Bring it on! Christians love to talk about the Kingdom of God today. That's good - so they should. But let’s not forget about heaven. Let's not try and dump so much of Kingdom future into Kingdom present that we lose our appetite and anticipation of all that is to come. Recognising this certain future is what energises present service. We work hard to see any hint of this heaven now, knowing that it is a foretaste of what is to come. I want my life to reflect this motivation.
Sure motivation for mission might begin and end with the Great Commission of Jesus. But it ain't such a bad idea to fill in the stuff in between. It has been a decisive part of my story.