Last January I had the opportunity to expand CityConnexx’ influence overseas. I taught an ethics course with leaders in India. I met new friends who are doing incredible work—much like our partners right here in the States. One of the friends grew up on a tea farm in Kenya.
On a whim, I challenged my Kenyan friend to a foot race on the beach. If you are a runner then you know the proud Kenyan heritage of running and probably recognize, sooner than I, the foolishness of my whim. The students filmed the footrace for posterity—I hope they don’t post it on social media.
The footage showed an overweight, aged man plodding along with arms pumping vigorously. The speed at which the man moved comically mocked the effort he put forth.
This was not the image I carried in my mind of myself –I still carry the image of myself as a college athlete: trim, athletic, capable, intimidating, competitive…
The film I played in my head went something like the training scene in Rocky 3—you know Apollo and Rocky racing on the beach. Suffice it to say the footage and the image were jarringly dissimilar. The picture I carry did not match reality!
Sometimes we as the church do the same thing. We have an image of ourselves as a church that is relevant and obedient. We see ourselves as ‘missional’ and ‘transformative’. We picture ourselves as Rocky and Apollo, but the film doesn’t lie. We are not as we could/should be.
What should we do, as the church, when we realize we’ve become less than the picture that we carry of ourselves?
James 1:23 describes the comical image of a person who looks in a mirror, beholds his/her image and then promptly forgets. Unlike James’ caricature perhaps we are at our best when we remember.
- Remember who we are: sinners adopted into the family of God.
- Remember who we are called to be: agents of reconciliation and hope.
- Remember what we are called to do: proclaim the ‘good news about Jesus Christ’ in word and deed.
Short-term missions give us an opportunity to take a good, long look in the mirror. When we work with people in complex and vulnerable situations we can’t help but see reflections of our own choices and actions and their impact on our neighbors. We have a chance to as James says ‘behold our image’.
The challenge is to Remember.