Mission today

Daily Reading for October 29 • James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa and his Companions, Martyrs, 1885

But now, I think that almost all missionaries come as people who want to be servants. Now the exchange of missionaries tends to affirm the good that is in each culture and also allow Christ to judge every culture, as Christ does. Yes, there are some elements of African culture that are not compatible with the Christian gospel, just as there are many aspects of European culture that are contrary to the gospel. But I prefer to think on the many things that the Christian gospel affirms about every one of us. Now we have mission companions who, on the whole, are not prone to using verbs in the imperative mood. . . . A more healthy exchange has developed and the giving is no longer in one direction. Today I would say there is a mutuality in the mission relationship. . . .

I hope those involved in the mission movement will continue in a gentle, non-abrasive way to stand for the truth that they believe. I hope that by who they are they will break down those barriers that tend to make people unresponsive to other aspects of truth. I think one of my greatest weaknesses, looking back in the struggle against apartheid, was that I became too abrasive. When you are right it is so easy to become self-righteous. Those who seek to be messengers of the gospel of grace do well to remember that it helps enormously if they communicate that message graciously.

It was an American philosopher who said, “What you are is so loud that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Some of the most eloquent witnesses to the Christian gospel are those who are side by side with people in need, incarnating God’s concern and love. If they do that with integrity people may ask, “What makes you want to do this?” And then you have the opportunity to say, “I am here really because I love Jesus, and Jesus has impelled me to come here and I hope that my touch will be to some extent his touch.”

From Desmond Tutu’s Foreword to The Scripture of Their Lives: Stories of Mission Companions Today, edited by Jane Butterfield. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

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