In the midst of major transition, I’ve reflected on what it means to live missionally in everyday life. After over a decade in East Africa, I recently returned to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. My days are now filled with tests and papers, counseling practicums and supervision meetings. Last year, I was working at a Kenyan international school and my job title included the word missionary. Twelve months later, I’ve traded geographic locations and job titles, and much of my day-to-day life looks completely different.
Every Christian Is Called to Missional Living
It can be easy to think missional living is reserved for those who move across the globe or who work in vocational ministry. But, the call to missional living is not limited to those with the title of missionary. According to Mark 12:29–31, the most important commandments are to love God and love our neighbor. In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan, and reminds us that being a neighbor means showing mercy to those we encounter as we walk through life. Christians are united in a call to love God, and because of that love, we have a mission to love our neighbor. But, as the story of the good Samaritan also reminds us, it is easy to overlook the neighbor who is right in front of us.
Last week, I had the privilege of traveling to Yosemite with a group of friends. Surrounded by mountainous beauty and disconnected from the outside world, I celebrated finishing a year of school with hikes and bike rides and s’mores. One evening as dusk settled in, my friend and I biked down an isolated path on the way back to our campsite.
We heard a man’s voice shouting, “Help, help!” from the rising darkness. My friend and I looked at each other, not sure what to do, since it might not have been safe to stop so close to dark. We heard the voice again, and turned around to see the man who was shouting, and to see a small child standing behind him. My friend and I turned our bikes around.
As we approached the man, we could see he was limping and his daughter looked scared. Then, his pregnant wife stepped out of the shadows of some trees to stand beside them. Quickly, our fear turned to compassion. It turned out they were waiting for a shuttle bus to come, and they weren’t sure if they should keep waiting, or if they should start walking back toward where their car was parked.
On our bikes, there wasn’t much we could do to help them. They started walking beside us, the small daughter rallying to race against our bikes. We eventually pulled ahead of them, directing them toward their car. As we biked down the path, the light of the shuttle pulled up behind us. We waved down the shuttle, which stopped to reveal our new friends inside. They laughed and we laughed with relief that they had found a ride.
“God bless you! Thank you so much for stopping!” the husband shouted.
The Neighbor Right in Front of You
It was convicting to realize we almost didn’t stop to help a limping man and his pregnant wife. My life is often full of anxiety, busyness, or my own scheduled agendas. It is easy to be blinded to the neighbor right in front of you. There are many missed opportunities for compassion and mercy.
Missional living doesn’t always mean moving across the globe. Sometimes it simply means turning your bike around. It means listening for the voice in need of help, and looking past fear to offer a small kindness. Sometimes it means taking the time stop, to listen, to connect with people or places that may have initially seemed scary.
Of course, it is one thing to turn your bike around on vacation, but a life of mercy can be more complicated. Missional living is often costly, meaning we lose time or money, security or certainty. Sometimes we end up moving across the city, or across the globe. Missional living can make our lives messier and more complex as we engage with the needs of the world and experience our own limits and inadequacies.
The Coming Kingdom of God
Ultimately, we live missionally because of Jesus’s incarnational love. Jesus heard the cry of our broken and needy hearts, and he turned toward us. He came to be with us, to know our world of sin and suffering, and to offer rescue through his death and resurrection. His resurrection power at work in us is what allows us to live missionally in day-to-day life, confident that he offers the salvation the world truly needs.
Would the family on the Yosemite road have made it without our help? Undoubtedly, yes. But, had I not stopped, I would have missed the opportunity to connect with a family in need, to laugh with a little girl on the road, and to celebrate when the shuttle provided the tangible help that could carry them to where they needed to go. Missional living allows us to connect with the work God is doing in the world, and to be reminded of the ways God’s mercy carries us all. It also opens our eyes to see God’s work in new and powerful ways, expanding our understanding of the coming kingdom of God.
Wherever you live, and whatever season of life you are in, Jesus calls you today into the work of loving your neighbor. Whether that means turning your bike around, or redirecting your whole life toward missionary service, may your encounter with the overwhelming mercy and love of Jesus empower you to turn toward your neighbor with kindness and care as you engage in missional living in your everyday life.
The Mission-Centered Life: Following Jesus Into the Broken Places
For Christians who long to serve God in broken places but aren’t sure where to start, The Mission-Centered Life speaks to the “whys” and “hows” of missional living. Bethany Ferguson shares why holistic missions are needed, how God’s grace empowers us to serve in places of need, what to do when we fail as missionaries, and how to cultivate hope in the midst of a broken world.