The spice box -Christ’s mandate: cross every border
By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
Part one: The nature and venue of mission
With every passing day the urgency of the Christian mission becomes greater—and with every reading of the daily newspaper, with every viewing of the 6 o’clock news, the success of that mission seems less likely. In a world where we are overwhelmed with messages of suspicion, fear and hatred, Christ is still calling on his people to reach out and risk themselves, not simply for his sake, but for love of his people, even those who see themselves as his (and our) mortal enemies.
His mandate, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-36 NIV), is as much an obligation for the Church today as it was when Christ first demanded it of his disciples.
The Army’s undisputed mission
In the words of General John Gowans (Ret.), the mission of the Army is simply stated: “Save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity.” We are agreed, aren’t we, that that’s what this Salvation Army of ours is all about? Its self-proclaimed mission is to identify need where it exists and try, with God’s help, to meet it, quietly, efficiently, without fanfare—and often without the resources the world says we must have if the job is to be done at all. The very nature of our calling compels us to strive to neutralize the borders and break down the barriers that interfere with reaching others with the gospel of Christ.
Our founder, William Booth, stated our mission even more succinctly: “Go for souls, and go for the worst!” That mandate remains the God-given mission distinctive of The Salvation Army. While we work in partnership with many churches and other Christian organizations, our special calling is to get down and dirty, to dig in the muck, if necessary, to find and save lost souls. It does not matter whether those among whom we minister consider us friends or enemies, people to be honored or scorned; Jesus has both commanded and equipped us to love, and fully expects us to follow orders, no matter how difficult it may prove. Our Commander in Chief has spoken; as soldiers in his Army, it is our duty and privilege to respond with a “Yes, Sir!” and get on with the assigned task in our assigned location. Nobody promised it would be easy.
The international and domestic climate
The world today seems to be building barriers and establishing new borders faster than they can be torn down. We are being taught to “suspect your neighbor” instead of “love your neighbor.” Mutual fear and distrust are becoming a way of life, a lifestyle bred of domestic threats and international terrorism. We in America are being warned to be suspicious of one another—already on the alert for crack houses, drug dealers on the streets and in the parks, chop shops, massage parlors selling sex with every massage—now we are told by government authorities to watch our neighbors for unusual or suspicious behaviors, to be prepared to defend ourselves, to build safe rooms in our homes where we can seal out the biological and chemical weapons of the terrorist who is waiting to attack. We are told to beware of travel abroad, to expect the unexpected, and to understand that it is not a question of if further terrorist attacks will occur, but a question of when and where.
To reinforce the defensive posture ordinary Americans are taking, we find ourselves struggling in an economy that is seeing good-paying, highly-skilled positions being outsourced to other nations, while our own young people are having difficulty finding entry-level jobs—and even face the dilemma of choosing a relevant college path because the kinds of positions they hoped to train for will no longer be available. The result is not a patriotic fervor, but a nationalistic frenzy that is turning millions of Americans into extremists—either isolationists, wanting to close their doors to the world, or international peace officers, ready to enforce our notions of what is best throughout the world.
And then we remember Jesus, who demanded the seemingly impossible of his followers: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you“ (Luke 6:27-31).
“Yes, Sir! Let’s do it!”
Read Part II in New Frontier vol. 29, no. 6, publishing in early April.