This blog was written in response to an article by Anthony Bradley. To see the original post with all the pretty pictures click here.
My 3-year-old, Hannah, tends to be the way that God teaches me the most about my relationship with Him and His desires for me. In the past week she has started to have her first consistent chore: emptying the dishwasher.
She does it while I cook dinner, and it’s a huge blessing because it’s ready for me to load with our dirty dinner dishes when we are through eating. It is a joy for her to do it for me. Her excitement is so contagious I almost want to do it myself. Almost.
Just the other day I was thinking about the idea that the push to be radical and missional in life has become the "new legalism," and Hannah’s little chore came to mind.
What is it that makes my 3-year-old want to unload a dishwasher in the first place?
Is it because it’s the most fun that can be had in our home, or did she attend a convention where she learned that other 3-year-olds were doing it and she felt guilty because she wasn’t
No. She wants to do it because I do it.
She wants to do it because it provides her more time with me. She wants to do it because I’m the biggest influence in her life. She didn’t wake up one day having never seen me touch the dishwasher and decide that she wanted to unload it. She watched and learned by spending time with me and then began doing it out of love and a desire to emulate me.
This is how being radical or missional should work in our lives. It should be because our biggest influence is Jesus. He is the one we are trying to model, and He is the one we want to spend time with.
Because we love Him, we try to live like He did.
This isn’t about working for working’s sake, or suffering or sacrificing as some kind of penance to get into Heaven. This isn’t about guilt or shame or a works mentality. Salvation is a free gift, and Jesus Himself said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30).
Just like for Hannah, emptying the dishwasher isn’t work—it’s an opportunity to be more like Mommy. One day emptying the dishwasher may feel like work to her, but that doesn’t mean that my expectation of her following through on her chore will change.
Just like for me, some days it’s harder to be as radical. It’s easier to buy that pair of shoes that I’m drooling over even though I don’t need them than to remember that the $20 I’m about to spend could give life-saving water to someone in need on the other side of the globe. But even in those times, it doesn’t mean that I stop living a missional lifestyle—it means I look to Jesus.
If I am going to err, I want to err on the side of following Christ’s words to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, cover the naked, visit the prisoner even on the days that I don’t “feel” it—not because it’s legalism but because He is still my standard.
The argument in Anthony Bradley’s article is that the idea of “loving God and loving our neighbor” isn’t enough for the missional minded. I am here to say that loving God and loving our neighbor is the most missional, radical thing we can do with our lives when we truly walk out what it looks like to do it. Loving God looks like doing what He has asked us to do (Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25, just for starters).
And Jesus answered the question of who our neighbor is in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:30–37. The neighbor to the man that was wounded by the thieves was the man that took mercy on him even though he was the farthest example given of an actual neighbor. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” I believe this applies to our literal neighbors as well as our neighbors all over the world.
The goal isn’t to guilt the average Christian but instead to spur each other on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). It’s to put our walk where our talk is and look different than the rest of the world because we have a different standard and He said we would be known by our fruit. It’s to truly love God and to love our neighbor in Jesus’ name.