What if the Great Command of Jesus – love others — was literally the entire point of following his ways? What if you didn’t have an underlying motive of, I don’t know, conversion? What if you are not meant to be a little messiah and in your attempts to “save” others, you are actually putting yourself on a pedestal which effectively dehumanizes others?
To be perfectly transparent, as I expand, I want to challenge your thinking. I want you to rethink your “mission” because I believe you were put on this earth for a greater purpose, one that is far too often overlooked.
Let us ponder Christian ministries for a moment. Basically, these ministries tend to consist of some like-minded folk with a heart for fill-in-the-blank cause in which they are trying to help a need. I’m going to zone in on a particular type of ministry, but the idea can apply to any.
A lot of churches have programs to assist refugees; there is a definite need and it seems to be trendy right now. We see ministries that do things like offer ESL classes and help new arrivals furnish their homes and navigate their new communities. All helpful things, right? The answer is yes, these are helpful things.
However, if I am being honest, it often gets weird quick.
Have you ever heard testimonials or received an email update in which a ministry explains how many people they have “saved?” Or maybe you have read one of those super-secret emails asking for prayers for the opportunity to evangelize so-and-so?
Think about it, why is there this secrecy? It may be because what they are trying to do (target, convert) would be hurtful if so-and-so found out and would likely end any relationship. I don’t know about you, but I would really struggle spending time with someone who has an ulterior goal in our friendship of converting my beliefs and values — the sheer inauthenticity is incredibly uncomfortable.
In reality, trying to convert someone is not loving — it’s just not.
On another note, if the underlying reasons you decide to form a relationship with someone is to change their views or “enlighten” them, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, they become a project. You are putting yourself on a pedestal trying to impart your “truth and knowledge.” It is a repackaged manifest destiny mentality; you feel that it is God’s purpose for you to “save” their souls.
Real quick side note before you get to overly angry with me if you haven’t already — I am well aware that I am making a blanket generalization and that not all Christian ministries fall into this category. However, the issue of dehumanization of “the other” in this nation has led to such harmful actions and policies supported by the majority of Evangelical Christians, that we are at a point that a generalization is warranted.
To view a person as a project — something for you to essentially fix or save — is dehumanizing to its core. Seriously, the arrogance in this common notion that God needs you to “save” those poor souls is ridiculous to say the least.
It doesn’t work; it doesn’t align with the Red Letters. Think about it, even Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. Trying to follow the ways of Jesus means putting ourselves beneath others, not in the humble brag kind of way, but with a willingness to sacrifice our wants and even needs to love others as Jesus did.
These ministries in which we elevate our own status above others are a complete contradiction to the ways of Jesus. Simply a half-assed attempt to look good, maybe do some helpful things, all while we cling to our life of comforts and our fabricated superior self-image. But it doesn’t work, we can’t whitewash the ways of Jesus. To truly find life we must be willing to lose it. Lose the status, lose the agenda, lose the control, and lose our ego.
It’s not glamorous to love without expectations, without the gratification of the praise you get from those who look and think like you. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you want to follow the wide path while clinging to the comforts and securities of your world, or do you want to follow the narrow path that aligns with the great command of Jesus?
Imagine what our world could look like if instead of living a burdensome life attempting to “save” souls, we poured all that effort into simply Loving others — straight up — without underlying motive. This sort of red letter love is the point of it all, it would leave an imprint of love so deep on this world that once you get a glimpse you could never turn back as there is no truer purpose. It’s that simple, we can manipulate our agenda to elevate ourselves or we can come underneath and let our only agenda be as straight forward as Jesus’ great command: love others first.
About Sheri Faye Rosendahl