Somewhere along the way, the disciples mentioned in the title of this week’s lesson got lost. Rather than learning from the experiences of Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Simon, or Thomas, we are encouraged to find principles for missionary activities in the charge Christ gave the disciples in Matthew 10. After reading the chapter in The Message, Eugene Peterson’s contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, and trying to make a list as I went, the principles started appearing.
- Start close at home. “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood” (verse 5).
- Be frugal. “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment” (verse 9).
- Be courteous. “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation”(verse 12). This is where the list started sounding like the Pathfinder Pledge and Law to me. As I jotted down my notes, I was sure that what comes after “Be courteous and obedient” was “Walk softly in the sanctuary.” Okay, the Pathfinders rearranged the order of instructions.
- Stay alert came next in Matthew (verse 16). Is that the same as “Keep a level eye?”
- Don’t be naïve. “And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it” (verse 26). There’s not a direct parallel in the Pathfinder material, so I’ll not push that, except to say that perhaps the Pathfinder Pledge and Law were written to create good habits that would also help you get past worries and naiveté.
Then Matthew acknowledged the irony of being a missionary. “Proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors!” (verse 22).
- Be survivors.
- Don’t be intimidated (verse 28). “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.” Would the Pathfinders admonition to “Keep a song in my heart,” help here?
Then, just as I was thinking this was a good comparison, along came this section head in Matthew “Forget About Yourself.” In our postmodern culture, to-do lists such as these are usually not about forgetting yourself, they are all about you and how you can be successful. Doesn’t success as a missionary mean counting baptisms, people contacted? Isn’t it about places to go, things to do? And yet, there in the section on survival was the admonition, “It is not success you are after in such times but survival.” And now, as the chapter concludes, it is about forgetting one’s self: “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me” (verse 39).
There was the core principle in the chapter. The aha moment of understanding that the whole missionary enterprise of the go ye into all the world command was meant to teach us how to get past ourselves. To be in relationship with Jesus is to care about all the people of the world in the same way that he does.
So how well did the disciples do as Master Guides? Were their sashes filled with merit badges? That’s not the point. They did go on God’s errands.
Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum magazine.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/840