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To Love as Christ Loved Us (Baptist Mission Conference)

Clarice Cheong attended the recent Missions Conference at GBC and was reminded that it is Christ’s love that motivates and enables us to proclaim the gospel.

In Mark 13:10, Jesus told His disciples that before His Second Coming the ‘gospel must first be proclaimed to the nations’. This is not a conditional proposal or a ‘do it if you can’ suggestion. Instead, it is a command directed with specific prerogative. Jesus also warns us that there are daunting expectations awaiting us – that we will be “hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13)

This prompted me to reflect upon some important words in the Christian faith – ‘missions’ and ‘evangelism’. In retrospect, I had not understood God’s purpose in spreading the gospel to the nations, nor had I understood what it means and how as Christians we are to ‘endure to the end’. There I was, a young believer sitting in the sanctuary, naïvely optimistic that I could absorb all the different speakers’ advice so as to arm myself with the most effective manual on ‘How To Evangelise The Nations’. After ruminating on this, I realised that missions and evangelism are not about chalking up the numbers in a social justice project, or about relying on our own human strength to love others and to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. When missions are thought about in this manner, we run the risk of confining God and His plans into a box limited to mankind’s imperfect standards. But God is infinite and His love is boundless.

By God’s grace, I realised that the most important piece of the puzzle was missing in my big picture of ‘missions’: the first love that Christ bestowed upon mankind when He died on the cross for us. How then do we marry the love of Jesus with our practical efforts to evangelise those around us? And what does it mean to demonstrate godly love to the nations? It seems difficult, but it is simple enough.

Mr Steve Ellis in his compelling opening speech, gave a powerful description of this love in his description of Jesus in Matthew 10:36b. Jesus was described as ‘ripped up on the inside of His bowels with a deep, abiding love for the lost’. Here, love does not refer to us pulling back, treading carefully, forcing a smile or giving a gentle pat on a person’s back to show how love makes the ‘world go round’. Our Maker’s love for us is profoundly tender-hearted, raw and truly unconditional, putting mankind’s most fundamental need, that is our spiritual emptiness, above His own. That is how Jesus could go to the cross so willingly, be crucified, and once and for all take on men’s sins as His own. This is a strong call for us as Christians to be torn for the brokenness of humanity, to the extent that we are moved to speak about the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations and strengthened to endure in our faith.  

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Reverend Ivan Lee kindly reminded us about the verses in Revelation 2:4-5 that challenge us: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” This is a timely reminder for us as Christians to reflect upon our heart posture, regardless of whether we are called by God to serve as a missionary, or to go on a mission trip, or more simply to evangelise those around us. Are we trying to persuade them to believe in Jesus based on our own words and intellect? Do we find ourselves weary and exhausted as we rely on our own strength to love and care for the lost? The Apostle Paul emphasises in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” As long as we do not forget that our first love is Christ, it is undeniable that all of us should be gathering our sickle, scattering the seeds and working the harvest field.