Missio Dei

Lately my conversations have been peppered largely with talk about mission… God’s mission, our mission… and the Latin phrase Missio Dei, which means “Mission of God”.
I love that this phrase has become so popular, because it reminds us that, although we do have a mission, it doesn’t actually belong to us. We so often act like it does. We say things like, “You’re not evangelized until we evangelize you,” and pretend that God has retained no authority over the growth of his Kingdom, content to simply sit back to consult and assist.

I’ve enjoyed thinking a lot lately about the way God calls us, instead, to assist him. Here is how I described it in a July 2007 post entitled “So Here I Am“:

It’s as if [God] were the captain of a pick-up basketball team, and he picks all the short heavy kids, just to prove that he can beat the other team all by himself. But then he manages to win the game as a team, just to prove he’s not a ball-hog.

And here is the same point, illuminated through a cute personal story by Doug Peters in a comment on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed.

In the autumn that my son was five, he came outside with his plastic rake to “help” me rake the leaves. I was extremely proud of him as he kept at it for almost two hours. Toward the end of that time, his elder sister came to the door to remonstrate with Nathanael.

“You’re doing it wrong!” she shouted.

And, indeed, he was: he was holding the rake “incorrectly”; he was often raking the leaves at cross-purposes to his father; he wasn’t particularly efficient in his coverage. In fact, it is quite possible that I could have completed the task more quickly without his help.

But that wasn’t the point. A father and his child were working together. Love was being developed. Great enjoyment was being had on both sides. And this father was particularly pleased with his son, “doing it wrong” and all.

“Oh!” squealed Nathanael’s sister, “It is cold out here.” And she slammed the door, and went back to watching television.

Folks who would rather call out those “doing it wrong” than actually do the work deserve to be warned, and deserve to be challenged (as Jay Kelly suggests above) to “bless the world”.

When we came in, Nathanael happily announced to his mother that “we” had raked the leaves. Indeed. I gave him all the credit he deserved. And perhaps a bit more than that…

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