This post is a guest post from Sarah Gallagher, my sister and partner in non-crime for the Hungary mission trip. If you missed earlier posts about the upcoming trip, check them out under the Hungary 2019 category. Other than deleting Oxford commas and adding links to appropriate resources she mentioned, this post is unedited.
What does everyone want more than anything else? The answer seems obvious and yet obtuse: everyone wants to have friends, to be in relationships, and to avoid loneliness. Solitary confinement is the most severe form of punishment. Many cases of depression, severe anxiety and other mental illnesses can be attributed to loneliness. And still, most of us would say that we feel lonely sometimes, that our relationships have conflict, that our friends occasionally hurt us.
God created humans to be in relationships, both with one another and with Him. In fact, God himself is in relationship. No human fully understands how the trinity works, but somehow the three persons of God (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God) are in relationship with one another (see, for example, John 3:35). Not only that, but God created humans to be close to Him, to be intimate friends with Him. This relationship without conflict is what made the Garden of Eden perfect; God and humans were living in intimate friendship without any dissension.
In contrast, humans feel lonely because of conflict. We do things that create rifts in relationships, build walls around our hearts and protect ourselves from hurt. Others do things to us that make us feel like we need to protect ourselves from being hurt. Christ followers would call these things sin. Sin is an action or failure of action that puts a barrier in our relationships. Those actions or failures of action put barriers in our relationship with God as well, although we might not always be aware of that. Sin is the opposite of love.
Throughout history, humans have sinned. No matter how well-intentioned one might be, there comes a point at which sin happens. We have times of selfishness, thoughtlessness, carelessness or perhaps even maliciousness. Sometimes we do things because we are reacting to someone else’s sin; sometimes our actions propagate someone else’s sin. Either way, the result is the same: we create cracks in relationships. There is conflict, disagreement, sometimes even termination of friendships.
No matter how hard humans try, we cannot seem to get over ourselves enough to obtain what we most want – the lovely company of other people and the beautiful company of God.
Most religions espouse a view of God up on a mountain, with people trying their hardest to get to Him. There are many paths up the mountain: Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc. All paths ultimately lead to God, and humans are striving to get up the mountain.
Christianity is different. God knows that humans cannot get up the mountain under our own power. We are too selfish, too careless, too thoughtless, and sometimes even too malicious. We are not enough like God to climb the mountain to Him by our own strength.
So, God came down the mountain to us. As the person of Jesus, God came down into the valley. In order to allow us to be in relationship with Him, Jesus died and paid the price for our selfishness, carelessness, thoughtlessness and maliciousness. He did what we could not do. He lived for 33 years without any selfishness, carelessness, thoughtlessness or maliciousness.
(This is not my mountain analogy, by the way. I got it from a book by David Platt called Radical, and I think others have used it, too.)
Here’s the kicker, though. Jesus’s death is only part of it. Really, if you think about it, everyone dies. What’s the big deal about death?
The big deal is this: Jesus rose from the dead. He is the only lead figure of any religion to have risen from the dead. (If you want more information about Jesus’s resurrection, I would point you firstly to the biblical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and then to A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.)
Christ followers believe that we can live in relationship with God and with each other because of God’s grace that he showed to us by coming to Earth, living a perfect life, dying and rising from the dead. We are not trying to get up the mountain. We are just riding the ski lift that God built. God is making us more like Him as we ride.
This is amazing! It is life-changing, and Christ followers want every person on Earth to have the same joy and peace that Christ followers experience. Missions are about sending out love and peace and joy into the world in tangible ways (like building wells, feeding people, buying them livestock and teaching them to read) and in less-tangible ways (like listening to people, being a friend and sharing the source of my joy).
(Now, am I joyful and peace-filled all the time? Definitely not. I still sin; I’m still selfish, thoughtless, careless and sometimes malicious. But I’m on God’s ski lift, hopefully becoming less selfish, less thoughtless, less careless and less malicious than I used to be.)
And that’s it. Missions are about loving people. They are about doing God’s will on Earth as it is done in heaven (see Matthew 6:9-13).
Thank you Sarah for sharing your perspective!
Ways Stay in Touch:
- Blogging here leading up to and during the conference.
- Instagram @meganunedited (beware the ridiculous number of dog photos I post)
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to help sponsor me and my sister’s trip.