“Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, “I can clean that if you want.” And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sin.”
― Max Lucado,
I love it when people take the prophet Micah's words seriously. In chapter six of his book in the Hebrew Bible, Micah reveals the traits that God is looking to be demonstrated by a man or a woman…His criteria indicate whether or not their heart is in alignment with His.
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
There is a two-fold path in that thought. First there is a doing act, yes? God says it is good when we act justly. There are actions of justice that God loves to see us perform in His name, and in His Spirit. To engage in helping humanity…to make a difference in the lives of people…to act in a way that is compassionate and just, or right.
This right action has a source. The source is love. He continues and notes that the person who makes God smile also loves mercy. Isn't that an interesting way to put ity? To, "love mercy?" Why didn't God say through Micah that we should also act merciful,, or show mercy? That would seem to fit with the first thought of acting justly. Yet, He notes that we should move towards mercy, but we move to mercy through the conduit of love.
When we are bitten by love, there is nothing that we won't do for the focus of that love. Men and women have been scaling mountains and doing some of the strangest things since the beginning of time in the name of love. Love is the pinnacle of our emotions, it is the highest action in the human arsenal.
There have been wars fought and won over love…The greatest sacrifice the world has ever experienced was done for you in Christ out of God's great love.
I sense that God knows that if we came to a place where we actually loved mercy, not merely for our own sake, but towards others, this world would be a radically different place. Micah didn't note that we are to only love mercy for some issues or towards some people…that would be easy. Rather Micah is revealing that we are called to have an orientation of love that is demonstrated in mercy…not just showing mercy…but having a heart that loves it, is committed to it…has been transformed and can act in no other way.
Micah quickly notes that not only are we to have a A heart that loves mercy, but there is another orientation enable action involved…to walk humbly with God. Here he says that God loves a heart that understands the power of humility…a heart that is honest about itself, no pretense, no hiding, complete honesty. That takes an incredible amount of trust that God is good and can be trusted with your flaws, deficiencies, sins and brokenness. That takes a heart that believes that God is for you and will not become the critical parent always asking you to perform or to do better…Here, Micah reveals that the better only comes from a place of total-being with God.
Brother Lawrence, who was a monk in the Carmelite order in France in the 1600's. He wrote a series of letters that have become a classic read called "The Practice of the Presence of God.Somehow, Brother Lawrence was able to authentically examine his heart, life and motives, find the darkness that resided there, yet be able to find the love and grace and mercy of God in His presence.
Most people hide from shame or guilt when they realize that they are not performing well or as they should. Rather than bring those flaws into the light or presence of God or others, they run from the love that they need, and slowly the guilt and shame harden their emotions and they are unable to give or receive love.
Read as brother Lawrence moves between an honest assessment of his heart and the loving presence of God:
"I consider myself as the most miserable of all human beings, covered with sores, foul, and guilty of crimes against my King; moved not sincere remorse I confess all my sins to him. I ask him pardon and abandon myself into his hands so he can do with me as he pleases. Far from chastising me, this King, full of goodness and mercy, lovingly embraces me, seats me at his table, waits on me himself, gives me they keys to his treasures, and treats me in all things as his favorite; he converses with me and takes delight in my countless ways…Although I beg him to fashion me according to his heart, I see myself still weaker and miserable, yet even more caressed by God."
What I see in operation in the church today is a missionality that is separated from the centeredness of being in love with and loved by Christ. We are seeing a large "Doing" movement which is good, but still not what God is looking for. A "Doing" church or person, is merely acting religiously instead of being a living sacrament of an incarnational person.
If we are to move deeper into the kingdom of God, the movement is predicated upon a true relationship of love and not an intellectual to-do list.
In order to love mercy and walk humbly with God, we need to experience a radical transformation of our heart…the Good News is that that is exactly what Christ came to do…a total transformation of your heart so that we could begin to not only do good actions…but have those actions flow from a place of being totally loved and accepted by God. God's unconditional love results is a gift of mercy…when we experience mercy, we begin to love mercy and desire that the world experiences the same liberating and healing presence of God.
Being and Doing; both are necessary, but the doing must flow from the being. When that happens we will all finally experience real love, and when you have tasted that, there is no going back.
I was at a conference recently that had a powerful missional heart-beat. As for me, I am incapable of separating and dividing the functions of faith into nice little boxes that we all pick and choose from depending on our preferences. Some like to live in the prayer box while others dwell only in the land of the Bible study box, while others are barricaded in the social action box.
As I look at Jesus, he managed to integrate into his life and ministry all of the faith expressions that most churches separate into distinct expressions, and then try to make Jesus the poster boyt for whatever expression they happen to have, or think is the only right one.
The church, however, is most reflective of Jesus when we integrate all the various passions, instincts and expressions of our faith under a healthy missionality that comes from Jesus Himself. For Jesus His worship and actions all flowed from His purpose, so while He operated in many expressions, His missionality, or His purpose was the thread integrating them all into one. Jesus was not a poster boy for a social Gospel, a Charismatic gospel, An Evangelical Gospel, or a Contemplative Gospel. He was the beloved of His Father, and that is where the compassion that fueled His every action had its origin.
While it seems to me that God has established our prime directive, the reality that we need to have a "missionally-focused" conference tells me that we have missed it somewhere. Perhaps even worse, there are those who don't even see the necessity of the Body of Christ operating from an -others-centeredness. Instead, they see the church primarily as an entity to meet their own person needs and desires.
Which floods my brain with the thought:
We have a dead orthopraxy when the missio dei is subordinated to the missio moi'!
When the Mission of God is subordinated to the Mission of Me, we end up with a religiosity that is self absorbed, unattractive, and completely other than God's plan.
- Missionality motivated by love gives us the incarnation.
- Missionality motivated by love gives us Forgiveness and grace when we don't deserve it.
- Missionality motivated by love gives us the Crucifixion.
- Missionality motivated by love finally gives us resurrection!
But in church after church I see the missio dei subordinated to the missio moi! In otherwords, it is commonplace to see communities of faith so self-foucused that it has become a rarity for them to follow God's Spirit on a journey that puts their energy, time, and finances into something that doesn't directly benefit them. Then, viola!' we need to have seminars to remind us of the Prime Directive of missionality!
When we become better at justifying why we don't do something missional than we are at saying yes to Divne opportunities of "others-ness" our orthopraxy is dead, our love is selfish, and we have forgotten the Prime Directive Jesus gave us. Over and over again, Jesus directs us to a path of love towards all people.
As we love others because of Christ's love for us, and then allow that to be the motivation behind our actions and involvements with people, we have stepped into the realm of misisonality…we have made movement toward fulfilling our prime directive and consequently we balance all the other faith expressions that the Holy Spirit has given to the Church.
The ancient goal of spiritual formation was the elimination of the "I", or a self-centered spirituality. Instead, words like service, surrender, supplication, and sacrifice were the language and actions of a life formed by the heart of God. The ancients knew that the self-life stood in the way of the Divine-life. An emphasis on taking what God has done internally was automatically connected to extending that awareness outwardly to others.
The practice of humility, simplicity, prayer, meditation, even fasting were not to be an end in-and-of themselves, but rather portals to receiving grace and then the empowerment of the Spirit is within us to extend that grace. Today, we have become masters at taking a practice and creating a denomination.
Maybe a better way to look at it is by comparing our lives to either a bowl or a hose. For many people, their spiritual life is like a bowl. They paint the outside of their bowl so that it is attractive. They take it to places where their bowl can get filled up with all the things that make them happy thinking that "When I fill my bowl with happiness I will have arrived."
Many even fill it with good things like church, family, PTSA, scouts, and prayer. Then add a job, career, cultural toys, stuff & things, you name it, everything goes into the bowl of us. Then when we say to God, "Okay, I'm ready for you to fill my life, lead me, direct me and…guess what? There is no room left in the bowl for God to even wriggle in.
The empowered spiritual life is not about filling our bowl with spiritual stuff, it is about turning our bowl into a hose that becomes a rushing conduit of Christ.
You see a hose works both ways. It can pour out, but it can also pour in. Spiritual disciplines exist not as a bowl filler, but as a way to empty the bowl and then transform it into a holy hose that gushes with the grace of God and waters everyone it comes into contact with.
A hose simply becomes a channel or a conduit for what ever is being poured out through it. A hose really doesn't care about how it looks. only that it is able to maintain the dynamic force that is flowing through it. Similarly, our lives transform from a bowl of religiosity to a channel of grace when we begin to view our beliefs through a missional lense.
When we become that spiritual channel/hose, we are filled with grace, life, goodness, beauty, provision, promise, and everything that is encompassed in Christ. All of those things are given to us as we become willing to allow God to move through us. We create a blockage when we are self-focused, and the result is a waterlogged believer. We have been designed not to merely receive, but also to freely give.
Let's keep the Missio Dei in the pole position to our cultures infatuation with the Missio Moi' and I believe we will see God move in surprising ways!