I received a support email from a friend today asking for money to send him to Nepal for a short term mission trip this summer. I found the second paragraph particularly thought-provoking and I turned it over in my head a bit on my run today (when I was not thinking, "Ow.. oww... my legs... oww... must... breathe...")
"The purpose on the trip is to bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus. THAT is our ultimate focus. In a land where its people are deeply religious, the battle for the hearts and minds of the people are won by the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is not because of our own efforts that people accept Jesus as our redeemer, but because of His working in their heart."
When I first read this I was struck by the way he said this because to me it read, "We are going to Nepal to bring people to Jesus. However, only the Holy Spirit can bring someone to Jesus, we can't do it." Interesting.
In light of today being Easter, I've been reflecting on the idea of Jesus saving mankind from their sins. My facebook feed is full of my Christian friends thanking Jesus for the gift of life and for his sacrifice. While running today I thought to myself, it's true. As humans we search desperately for hope and meaning in life. To believe that the God who created you and the world around you cared enough about your plight to suffer and give you redemption is great news. It's amazing news. It's the best news. You're loved and cherished.
However, if you think of all the humans on this planet, about 7 billion of us, and according to the most favorable of statistics only 33% of those are Christians, things get sad. Are 66% of humans really hell bound and is it because of us? People claim that with these words Jesus put the responsibility of people's salvation in our hands: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Mt. 28:19) And is that good news? To take something as important as eternal salvation and place it in the hands of stupid, selfish, awful, deceitful, confused, scared, humans? To call that "The Great Commission"? It's the verse that short term missions clings too- we need to go and tell people about Jesus and save them. We might be their only chance.
But, today I wondered, is it salvation Jesus wanted us to bring to people? Or is it just, as Rob Bell says in Velvet Elvis, that a life knowing Jesus, knowing that you are loved and precious, is the best possible life. That we have found the best possible life to live on this planet and we want to share it? We want to invite people to live a life that (also from Mr. Bell) brings heaven to this earth. Whatever brings love, peace, joy, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is the best life. That's good news.
Salvation is complicated. Eternity and heaven and our final destinations are murky and confusing if you start poking at them. I'm not entirely convinced that Jesus intended for us to try to "save" people and place their salvation as a responsibility on our checklist.
Those are my disjointed ponderings today. No conclusive thoughts, just some questions and wonderings.