The Spirit of a Missionary

There is a basic difference between a missionary spirit and the spirit of a missionary.

By J. WWestphal

There is a basic difference between a missionary spirit and the spirit of a missionary. A person may be very active in distributing papers and tracts, and very zealous in visiting people and telling them about the truth, and yet in spirit be so far from the people that there remains an im­passable gulf between the two. Such a worker does not really become one with the people for whom he labors, and although he has the missionary spirit, he lacks the spirit of a mission­ary. He may, despite all, have some results in his work, for the Spirit of truth convicts and converts hearts which are sincere and honest; but the worker for God is commissioned to instruct, to win, to establish with the golden cord of mutual sympathy, love, and confidence, those for whom he la­bors. The fulfilling of his commission involves practical Christianity.

The life of the missionary is not spectacular. The duties which devolve upon him cannot be fully appreciated by those who are not in close, contin­ual personal touch with the people for whom he labors. There is much to endure that is repulsive, and many difficult problems to meet. But when the missionary spirit becomes the spirit of the missionary, the deeds of daily life stand out as a monument to the sustaining power of the living God.

God could not save men merely by speaking the word of salvation from His throne in heaven, nor from the summit of Sinai. When He came down onto Mt. Sinai and spoke to the peo­ple, there was awakened within their hearts fear and trembling, and ready promises of obedience and faithfulness to all His requirements. But the prom­ises thus secured did not save any one. All these factors had their purpose in the plan of God to bring men to sal­vation, but it required something more in order to save them.

The Saviour of men came down from heaven to become a man among men. He became one with those whom He longed to save, in order. that He might reach the lowest depths and lift men out of the pit of sin. Herein lies the secret of the plan of salvation. Lead­ers of many false religions have set forth high principles, beyond all pos­sibility of human attainment, but no provision is made for release from the bondage of self.

The story is told of a poor soul brought from the darkness of heathen­ism into the light of Christianity, who described his experience by saying that he found himself in a very deep pit, from which he could not by any means extricate himself. Along came Buddha, and after him Confucius, and other pretentious "saviors" of man­kind. Each looked over the side of the pit and condoled the poor man in his misery, and bade him come up out of the pit into a different environment, and then passed on their way. Then came Jesus, and seeing the man be­low, He went down to the bottom of the pit, took the poor man in His arms, and carried him to the surface, and set him free. That is Chris­tianity.

The Son of God, in order to become the Saviour of men, humbled Him­self, not to become an earthly king, a nobleman, or as one of the rich and learned of earth, but He placed Him­self on a level with the poorest and most needy soul. The plan of salva­tion is not a theory nor an ideal. It is the most practical actuality.

Jesus was as much at home in a hovel as in a palace. In His presence, no person felt as though He were a stranger, for there was about Him the atmosphere of compassion and friend­liness. The poor and the rich were equally free to come to Him, and were equally welcomed. There was no aloof­ness on His part. He placed His hand on the loathsome leper for the healing of body and soul, just as readily as He took innocent little children in His arms and blessed them.

Jesus not only had the missionary spirit, but in His relations with people of every class, station, and condition, He demonstrated the true spirit of the missionary. While His mission required that He give His time princi­pally to the Jews, He manifested the same joy and interest in mingling with the Samaritans as with the Jews. Nationality, as such, played no part in His interest and helpfulness. He is our model in service.

"The life of Christ established a re­ligion in which there is no caste, a religion by which Jew and Gentile, free and bond, are linked in a common brotherhood, equal before God. No question of policy influenced His move­ments. He made no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the wa­ters of life."—"Ministry of Healing," p. 25.

We read that "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of ev­ery kind," and we are told that "the casting of the net is the preaching of the gospel." The last phase of the gospel, in its threefold aspect, is the mighty net which is now being cast into the sea of human life, gathering in souls from every nation, tongue, and people. God's missionaries are the fishermen, constantly casting the net into the sea and bringing to shore the honest in heart of every kindred, tribe, and nation, to become united in the Father's family. But in the interval between the time of gathering and the time of entrance into our heavenly home, there are many dangers and pitfalls by which the enemy of God seeks to discourage and defeat the can­didate for the kingdom.

The ambassadors for God must stand as bulwarks all along the way, having Christ so fully enthroned within their hearts that the true spirit of the mis­sionary will become the power of at­traction around which all will unitedly rally. This ideal can never be achieved simply by a perfect external organiza­tion. Only as the missionary identi­fies himself with the people to whom he is sent, both in heart and practice, can the desired results be obtained. Any spirit of personal or national su­periority on the part of God's work­men thwarts the purpose of God.

Again I say, it is possible to have a missionary spirit and lack the spirit of a missionary.

Christ gave Himself to the human race. When He was born of the vir­gin Mary, He took upon Himself not simply Jewish flesh, but He clothed divinity in human flesh. When He be­came the "Son of man," He identified Himself as truly with the Hottentot as with the nobility of earth. The true missionary will manifest a feeling of kinship with those to whom he is sent. With him there can be no favoritism, partiality, nationalism, aloofness, or depreciation. Only as this spirit takes possession of the missionary will it be possible for the threefold message to unite the people of every tribe and nation in one heart and purpose; and this can be possible only as Christ is made the center of attraction in life and work.

The lack of the true spirit of a mis­sionary on the part of those who pro­fess to have a missionary spirit, is the cause of endless trouble and eter­nal loss.

Washington, D. C.


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By J. WWestphal

February 1931

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