Jesus and Integral Mission: Some Observations, Part 2
In my first post, I shared how Jesus demonstrated integral mission by balancing and affirming relief and development in His earthly ministry. Drawing from the same text (Luke 9:1-17), I want to continue with more observations for integral mission from the life and ministry of Jesus.
God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. God also sent His Son to dwell among us (John 1:14) so that we could see His glory. In Luke 9, we find Jesus in a desolate place among scores of people with all kinds of needs. While it may be easy to overlook this, let us not play it down. Jesus made Himself accessible to everyone in society, especially those on the margins. He was accessible and approachable, even for those who could not walk (the lame) and those who could not be touched (the lepers). Even those in the grave were not beyond the scope of Jesus’ reach!
Jesus had a plan. It was to pour into His disciples. Yet the multitudes pressed in on Him. What would He do? Would he tell them to get in a line and schedule an appointment with one of His disciples? According to Luke 9:11, Jesus welcomed them. He welcomed them because He was with them. He was with them because He was for them.
WORD & DEED | SPIRITUAL & PHYSICAL
Jesus proclaimed the kingdom and healed the people of their diseases. He held up both word and deed consistently throughout His ministry, and a cursory look at the early church would reveal that His disciples were well trained to keep these two together. He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom while demonstrating what the kingdom looks like when the poor are welcomed, the marginalized are ministered to, and those with sickness and disease are confronted with the healing power of God. His preaching (word) gave explanation for His healing (deed) and provided clarity as to what this means. His healing (deed) gave an apologetic and embodied the proclamation (word) with validating power.
Jesus met both the spiritual and physical needs of the people. If He had just fed hungry people but did not call them to repent and believe in the gospel, then that would be eternally “hurtful.” If He had just preached to the people but refused to address the obvious needs, then His compassion would be called into question. Is there one that is more important than the other? Well, yes. We want people rescued by Jesus through believing the good news. However, that good news is embodied by people doing good deeds and living in such a way that cause others to ask for the reason for the hope that is within them (1 Peter 3:15). Those who have a robust deed ministry, caring for the physical needs of the people, are provided with greater accessibility and opportunity to reach more people with the gospel word.
DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY & HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
On the one hand, there are those who will play the “sovereignty card” when presented with a mission opportunity, saying that God is big enough to take care of His own world and all the problems in it. On the other hand, there are those who take responsibility to a level where they think they are God in that they have limitless resources and are indispensable to the work, leading to burnout and despair.
Interestingly enough, when the disciples saw the day ending, they ignored both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. They did not want to take responsibility for the needs of the people, so they advised Jesus to send them away to the surrounding villages. It was a problem they wanted nothing to do with. On the other hand, their minds were hardened to what they had been witnessing all day long. Jesus’ sovereign power over all kinds of sickness and disease was presented before them for hours. Surely, they would have believed Jesus is big enough for any need that came their way after a day like that! Yet, they factored out God’s sovereignty as sufficient for the need and considered a worldly solution rather than a divine one.
What was Jesus’ response? He affirmed both sovereignty and responsibility. He told them, “You give them something to eat.” You. You! You give THEM something to eat. It is your job. Their needs are your responsibility. This was a command they could not run from or excuse away. They had to do something. But what? They had nothing but a few loaves and fish. How many people will that feed? Then Jesus, demonstrating His sovereign power, took that offering and miraculously provided more than enough food to feed 20,000 people. The disciples did give them something to eat. They handled their responsibility as God handled His sovereignty.
This is vitally important for integral mission. First, we must remember that this is God’s mission. He takes far greater ownership of the work than we could ever imagine. We are working with Him! And yes, we are working, and our work matters. We are means through which He delivers His miracle to the masses. Our sovereign God chooses to work through human means who have been entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out His work in the world. We cannot reduce God to man, lest we lose hope. We cannot give ourselves to God-like expectations, lest we factor Him out and fail in the process. God has a role, and He is great at being God. We have a role, and we need to be faithful at being servants entrusted with His mission.