Today, I want to add to our discussion about why Laura and I are going to Cambodia. Partially because it’s one of the most common questions we’re getting as we talk to friends and family, (partially because writing is how I process these questions myself).
There are at least three parts of why we are going. Certainly, Laura and I were both created to do this. Certainly, we have been called to go to Cambodia now. But what I want to focus on today (as much as the three are separable) is the conviction. Not the satellite level view of how God created us and how we fit into the rest of creation. Not the crop duster view of the logistics and details. But somewhere in the middle.
A theological detour
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to define the Gospel (e.g. what Jesus taught), and how that defines our role on Earth, as people who have come to rely on Jesus and trust him for salvation.
Ask ten people, and I’m sure you’d get 16 answers to what the Gospel means. There would probably be a lot of overlap — that Jesus came to take our place, take the consequence for our sins, and restore our relationship with God. For many, I suspect it may simplify to a question of Heaven vs Hell — people who trust Jesus get to go to Heaven, people who don’t choose some sort of eternity apart from God. (I’m going to sidestep that debate for now).
As good as that news is, I think that it’s missing a significant part. If the good news of Jesus really was only that by accepting him as the path for salvation, we can spend an eternal afterlife together with God — well, that’s fantastic, but it rings a little hollow between now and eternity.
The good news Jesus brought was two-fold — providence for eternity, and power and grace to live life well today. (After all, that second bit is a big part of the Holy Spirit’s job description).
So what does it mean to live life well? What is our purpose this side of eternity?
Part of that purpose is certainly the Great Commission — to spread the good news that we have found. I don’t want to discount that in the slightest (after all, we’re about to pack up our lives and become career missionaries).
Drilling down a little further into that, what does spreading the good news look like? Well, different for each of us, of course — it stands to reason that a God that created each of us uniquely would have us each work uniquely. But a good first step (and maybe a prerequisite) is found in John 13:35.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I would be surprised if anyone could really spread the Gospel without love. It certainly didn’t work well for Jonah in Nineveh.
Back to the beginning
The other major part of our purpose that I see is to get back to fulfilling our original design. As the Westminster Catechism puts it, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
Glorify God — that corresponds to definitive actions we can take. Enjoy God — that’s an experience that is ongoing. Each of those can be a discussion in and of themselves. But even at a first glance, it’s clear that our purpose is more than waiting things out until the rapture. God has created us, called us, and convicts us to action.
The part where Ian gets to the point
The verse that I keep coming back to that sums up all of this is I John 3:16-18 (bonus: the reference is pretty easy to remember).
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Laura and I have chosen to uproot our lives and move to Cambodia because it is the fullest way we have found to love our brothers and sisters. It’s coming as close as we can to modeling Jesus and laying down our lives. It’s how we best know to serve and love with actions and in truth — not just words and speech.
For us, this is a matter of obedience.