“Every time I snap my fingers, someone dies apart from the gospel. What are you going to do about it?” ~Every reformed preacher ever.
“…could you just stop snapping?”
~Every rightly terrified Christian who has been exposed to this heresy..ever.
I understand just fine how scary it is to have family and friends who live apart from Christ. I understand even better how terrifying it can be to talk to them about the hope that is within me while trying not to say anything wrong, to balance the delicate nature of human relationships with the Rock of Offense. I get that “witnessing” is scary.
You know what doesn’t help though? Telling someone it’s their job to do it, and their fault if it doesn’t get done. You know how to make it even worse? Closing every sermon with the reminder of just how sinful they are by preaching law to them.
If Lutherans are so adamant that we can’t “choose” Jesus, why do we think we can make others do it?
“For the Law only accuses and terrifies consciences. …how will men love God in true terrors when they feel the terrible and inexpressible wrath of God? What else than despair do those teach who, in these terrors, display only the Law?” (AP VX.34)
Treating “missions” under the law only serves to make people feel like they’ve let down their neighbor and their God at the same time, and the honest truth is, under the law, they have. The law cannot motivate us towards good works, nor can it empower us to accomplish them (FC-SD, VI.11). That’s because we can’t fulfill the law on our own. We need Jesus. That’s the whole point, remember?
Thankfully, they don’t call Jesus the “Good” Shepherd for nothing. The Good Shepherd takes care of His sheep. All of them. He’s not the “sort of OK” shepherd. He doesn’t demand the sheep care for themselves and then blame them if something doesn’t go right. He Himself goes after the one who is lost, and bearing it on His own shoulders that bore a cross, carries it home. If Christ loved sinners enough to bear a cross for us, He certainly loves us enough to bring us to that cross. He accomplishes this by the same means for everyone: word and sacrament.
If there’s two cliches I’m sick of hearing about “missions”, it’s 1) that if you’re not preaching “Go”, you must hate missions, and by extension, you must hate people, and 2) we need mission programs that treat people like faceless numbers who we’re obligated to talk to, because that will show them how much we love them.
Then, they can go treat more people like faceless numbers who they are obligated to talk to. That’s not missions. That’s a pyramid scheme.
Missions, simply put, is what the church is. We gather under the Triune Name of God which we were baptized into, and hear God’s preached word, and rejoice in His real presence with us, even to the end of the age, found in His body and blood. Missions is love. It’s the love God has for you, and that love is powerful.
Missions happen because God is at work in His church to forgive sinners and give them eternal life. Missions happen because the sheep know their Shepherd, and so whenever they are afraid, they turn to the one who says “Do not be afraid”, and then backs it up with His conquering of sin, death, and the devil – all our enemies on this earth. We take shelter in the arms of Christ our Lord, and when we find someone we love who is suffering, we point them to the same balm. We don’t need to be “motivated” or threatened. That’s not how love works. The Love of God that abides in us works in us whether we want it to or not. These are the works which He has prepared beforehand. They’ll get done, because the Good Shepherd is at work in doing them.