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09 May 2016

Love for the lost


CMS Mission Personnel Secretary Elizabeth Richards provides support and guidance to CMS cross-cultural workers as they take the gospel to the nations. Here, Elizabeth reflects on God’s amazing love, and how CMS missionaries are embracing and sharing this love across the globe.

As we read God’s word, his love for the lost from all nations is abundantly clear. From God’s promise to Abraham that through him all nations will be blessed, to New Testament statements such as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8, we see the overwhelming love God has for his world and that it finds its ultimate expression in the cross. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

From this understanding we know that God’s imperative is ours. As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, living in the last days and waiting for Christ’s return, we are taking on kingdom values. We learn and grow to love what God loves, and God loves the world for which he sent his only son. He desires for all people to come into his kingdom. So we also need to carry his mandate to go into all the world with the good news out of love – because he first loved us. Without love we will just be clanging cymbals, trying to send a message that might not be heard at all.

God’s love motivates

It is a given that our cross-cultural workers will love the lost and desire that all people have the opportunity to enter God’s kingdom. Loving the lost as God loves the lost needs to be lived out every day in thought, word and action. Christ’s love compels and God’s spirit enables. This provides the motivation to learn another language, to adapt to and cope with a whole new set of cultural norms and to keep going in difficult circumstances. Ministry in another culture carries times of deep frustration, loneliness and despair. Lack of visible fruit can lead people to question the value of their effort. As we grow to know God’s incredible sacrificial love towards us in Christ, we have the motivation and confidence to continue loving the lost around us, no matter what.

Who do we love?

Some prospective missionaries approach CMS having already developed a strong love and connection to a particular people group. They may have been praying for that group for years, or have a personal connection through family or from short-term mission. CMS worker Liv* shares:

One year at Katoomba Youth Conference the speaker challenged us to ask God for a very specific thing in prayer. I asked for a passion for the lost. The ability to see people and situations through God’s eyes is something I have sought to pray for daily. After graduating from university I worked in The Maldives for 12 months. Through this experience God gave me a heart to work long-term with Muslim women. In the current climate of fear of Muslim people I am thankful for the many Muslim friends God has given me.

Others approach CMS because they are convinced by the need to take the gospel to all nations but have not yet identified amongst whom they will serve. This was the case for CMS missionary Kingsley Box, who serves in Slovenia with Veronica:

I didn’t have any special feelings towards the Slovenes when I was deciding whether to come to Slovenia or stay in Australia or go to Africa. But I did have God’s word, the Bible, which gives me his plans for all the nations, his feelings toward this world, and us, and where this world is headed.

At St Andrew’s Hall, missionaries in training learn skills for crossing cultures and frameworks for understanding the culture of a new location. It is often through this that they begin to identify with a people group, and once on location develop a Christ-like sacrificial love and concern for those people.

When loving is hard

It can take time for this love to develop. Sometimes events on location can make it difficult to love a particular people group. Perhaps that group is perceived as the source of suffering and hardship.

For example, Peter* and Kate* were working in a country in South East Asia. They struggled in their first term with adapting to the culture and learning the language. There were aspects of their new lives that made them angry and frustrated. On Home Assignment they asked for prayer that they would be able to properly love the people whom they had gone to serve. God answered that prayer and enabled them to return feeling energised and enthusiastic for the task ahead. In the ensuing years the difficulties and hardship continued, but their love for the people they were living amongst helped to sustain them and allowed them to build strong relationships.

If we know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, then we must always be growing in seeing the world through his eyes – and taking the message of his love to all the nations.

PRAY

Pray that God will raise up more people to serve with CMS in different parts of the world – people who have a servant heart and a love for others that is rooted in the knowledge of the depth of God’s amazing sacrificial love toward us all. Pray that he would grow your heart for the lost too.

*Names change for security reasons.