By Pia Peña Restrepo, guest blogger
Just a few months ago my husband, Eugenio, and I accepted the call to be the regional coordinators for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Our position calls us to pastoral care for missionaries as well as to support national church leaders in the countries where the Covenant has partnerships. It has been an amazing journey of learning and considering what God is doing in this side of the world.
I believe that mission is not a task or a goal but a way of living, of thinking, of being. Therefore the whole mission of the Church is to embody Christ’s commandment and Christ’s commission stated in theses verses from the gospel of Mathew:
“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ‘This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” — Matthew 22:37-39
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20
However, I believe that the Church is experiencing some tension today regarding the whole mission of the Church. Some argue that the mission of the Church is to defy injustice and lessen suffering, doing more to express God’s love for the world. Others are worried that the Church is in danger of misplacing its focus and thus stress the proclamation of the gospel.
If I carefully examine and ponder on these verses I must conclude that such tension shouldn’t occur. Our concern for the unprivileged, the poor, and the hungry should be just as strong as our concern for the spiritually barren and lost.
So to obey Christ commandment and commission is to live a life totally engaged in God’s mission in the world.
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” — Matthew 7:12
This is God’s entire way of life. Because God’s way is all about profound and outward care for others. This is God’s mission! Thus the whole mission of the Church should seek to put into practice the golden rule at all levels and for all our brothers and sisters. Loving and serving local and global neighbors must be central to our spiritual experience.
Consequently, I should first ask myself if I am loving God with all my heart, trusting him, glorifying him in every word, every deed, every thought. Second, I should ask myself who is my neighbor. Third, I need to question whether my neighbor is seeing Christ in me. Am I proclaiming the Good News through my words, my ethics, my undertakings, and my silence? Am I being compassionate, merciful and impartial to myself and to my very own neighbor?
This reflection brings me to further ponder and enquire:
Do I really desire the best for myself and for others? How is that manifested in my everyday choices and attitudes?
Am I intentionally seeking to creatively serve others, love them sacrificially, defend them courageously, and give big-heartedly? Am I sincerely concerned for the salvation and restoration of the spiritually barren? Am I deeply concerned for those who are disillusioned with church systems and binding norms? Am I genuinely concerned to present a Jesus who offers freedom and forgiveness to the sinner and possibilities of inner healing and transformation? Am I willing to develop and share creative ideas and resources to empower those in need? How far am I willing to walk for my neighbor, even those whom I may not like?
The whole mission of the Church demands my total commitment to serve others regardless of gender, color, age, nationality, immigration status, or religion.
I am so proud of how the Covenant is exercising God’s mission in concrete ways. “Hands with Hope,” “Seeds de Hope,” “Covenant Kids Congo,” and “Fuentes Libres” are a few examples of how the church is impacting the community, by serving where a need is shouting to be met.
Finally, I must say that to fulfill the whole mission of the Church I should truthfully be willing to discern and respond to God’s call for me!
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” — Frederick Buechner
Pia Peña Restrepo and her husband, Eugenio, are regional coordinators for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Originally from Colombia, she has served as a Covenant missionary since 1989, most recently in Spain for 18 years. Their story was featured on the cover of the Covenant Companion in September.