Mission, the greatest gift to families
By Claudia Rossetto
Being a missional family is not about relocation, but about re-orientation. Those who self-identify as Christians, serve a triune God who is by nature a loving missionary. To be a missionary, locally or globally, is to have an outward orientation. It is a posture of reaching out and engagement. In Genesis we see a God who sought Adam and Eve to dress them when they felt naked. God reached out to Cain when he was angry to help him see things differently. God reached out to Abraham and engaged him with a promise to make him a great nation. In Christ God sought the world to save it. South African Missiologist and theologian David Bosch wrote, “mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God.”
The triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created humans to be born and to thrive in community. Families are the basic expressions of God’s communal nature and the building blocks of church and society. As image bearers of a missionary God all his children are called to be missionaries. Where do God’s children learn to develop a missionary posture? They learn in their families. In the words of John Paul II, families are little churches where people learn to discern and to accept their mission from God. The purpose of families is to train and then to liberate people for God’s service (Robert Barron).
Involvement in God’s Mission is a great gift to families because it keeps families together, free, protected from their individual imperfections and fulfilled. First, just as an individual finds a more fulfilling life by knowing his or her life purpose, so do families. Having a family purpose or mission keeps it together. The philosopher Aristotle had a profound insight about unity resulting from shared purpose. He spoke of the transcendent third. His theory was that a friendship will endure only in the measure that two friends fall in love, not so much with each other, but together with a transcendent third. In other words, with some good that lies beyond the two of them. In Barron’s words, “They move out of a shared egotism because of their love for another. Aristotle suggested that a friendship will devolve unless some transcendent good pulls the friends outside of themselves, and …the paradox is, that it is that transcendent third kind of friendship that will actually last.“ Maybe, it is the love of mission that will hold couples and families together?
Second, mission liberates families. Having a family mission statement defines the priorities and calls for simpler lives. It frees parents and children from codependent relationships by putting God first. Children are the most cherished gift for parents, yet as imperfect creatures their way of loving can be harmful. To protect the family from this danger God reminds parents that their children belong to Him and that their sense of mission ought to be prioritized. Old and new testament stories reflect this. God’s request to Abraham to sacrifice his only child was a reminder to Abraham that his beloved son Isaac belonged to God. Not offering our children to God makes them vulnerable to be offered on the altars of the gods of materialism, consumerism or individualism. God had life preserving plans for Isaac that may have gone unfulfilled had Abraham chosen to distrust and disobey God. Giving a child back to God is the best way to love children. In the New Testament, we often read of Jesus defusing sentimental ideas about family. Once he reminded his earthly parents that his mission was a priority over sticking with them in a family trip. He said: “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”(Luke 2:49).
Third, without a sense of mission, families find themselves scattered and exhausted. They are wasting time and energy chasing different lifestyles and directions that leave no room for God. They also find themselves exhausted by decision making processes defined by the current trends in the world. A clear sense of family mission invites families to live simpler lifestyles, to free energy and time for each other, and to pursue God’s mission together. Also, decision making processes are simplified. Career, jobs, housing and other options that do not align with the family mission statement can be weeded out. A family yoked with Jesus in his mission has a better life. Jesus himself says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Finally, there is fulfilment when a family lives with a daily sense of purpose or as part of something bigger. When families (individuals or churches) live in self-maintenance mode there is no contentment. Nothing seems enough. When everything revolves around family feelings, around the maintenance of possessions or of children schedules life feels dissatisfying and stuffy. Mission is an opened window to the oxygen of God’s world. The loving God created humans for love and for self-giving. That explains why giving or serving others makes us feel good. But mission goes deeper and further than feelings. When things get risky or difficult the love of Christ propels the family to keep reaching out, because we meet Jesus when we reach out. We meet him in the weary, the lonely, or the one in need. And that is always exciting. Christ’s love is the energy that mobilizes us and it is also the destination. The love of Christ precedes us. The possibility of encountering Christ in the unexpected people and places makes every day a joyful expectation.
Missions Fest Vancouver serves as a bridge between the local church and mission agencies. Conference information can be found at www.missionsfestvancouver.ca or check out our new digital platform for year round resources at www.missioncentral.ca