My husband and I entered our home upon our return from a three-week missions trip to Asia. I immediately removed my favorite leather sandals and parked them near the door. “These need a disinfectant sole scrub,” I said. “There’s no way I’m wearing them into the house.”
While overseas, my sandals had carried me many miles on broken city streets, down back lanes, and along village pathways littered with every imaginable waste. They’d also carried me into public washrooms where squatty potties were the norm. Some were immaculate; others not so much. Enough said.
The thought of the potential bacteria load on my shoes made me queasy as I reached for the soap. To my surprise, a well-known scripture popped into my head at that exact moment: “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15).
Beautiful? I thought, looking at the shoe in my hands. That’s not exactly how I feel right now. Au contraire. I feel more like my feet need a hot, soapy bath and the shoes that carried them need a bucket of bleach.
The Scripture came again: “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news.” I paused momentarily to ponder them, and that’s when the truth dawned.
Living a missional life can sometimes be a messy affair physically and otherwise. Those we serve — and those watching from the sidelines — might misunderstand our motives and view us with suspicion. They might criticize or reject us. They might even lie or try to take advantage of us. Their neediness might drain our time, our energy and in some cases, our wallet. We invest much, and we want to see results. When a desired outcome doesn’t come, we can fall prey to discouragement or worse — become calloused.
What keeps us motivated to live a missional life even when it gets messy? Here are three thoughts that bring me encouragement in this regard:
- Christ descended from heaven and emptied Himself to become a servant to broken mankind. He was misunderstood, criticized and rejected, and yet He willingly laid down His life to redeem the lost. He’s our ultimate example. Who are we to think we ought to do less? Besides, weren’t we among those lost ones for whom He died?
- A messenger’s role is simply to deliver a message. It’s not his role to determine the recipient’s response to that message. Similarly, as believers, we’re commissioned to bring the good news of hope through Christ to a hurting world. We’re to do our job with love and excellence; the Holy Spirit is responsible for the results. That takes the pressure off us and allows us to more freely love those whom we serve.
- Life’s not about us. It’s about fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. That might involve inconvenience or pain. If so, then He’ll give the wisdom and strength needed at that time, and He’ll use the tough stuff to conform us to the image of Christ if we live fully surrendered.
Living a missional life — pouring ourselves into other people for eternity’s sake — can be messy, but our obedience doesn’t go unnoticed. God hears the stuff we hear and sees the stuff we experience when working with hurting people.
“Well done, good and faithful servant,” He says. “How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news.”