On Marriage and Missions

by Philip Maniscola, Global Outreach Commission Member

May 4, 2017

 

In my house hangs a wedding photo of an unlikely couple. In this picture, you’d see an olive skinned Indonesian woman with black, wavy hair holding the hand of a pale Sicilian who donned a handlebar moustache. She grew up in the rural farmlands of the world’s largest Muslim country, while he had never left South Philadelphia since his birth during the Great Depression. They were, literally and figuratively, worlds apart. Yet somehow years ago they met and married.

They exchanged their vows on a sunny September day, and after the ceremony they held a modest reception for their two families. This was the first time the two sides ever met, and after a period of ice breaking, they magically got along very well. The mood was merry as everyone was eating, drinking, and laughing together.

Then a period of silence ensued as the groom turned to his bride. All were listening intently.

“Did you know these guys once asked me if I was sure you weren’t a terrorist?“

In a flash, she replied “What?! My family asked me if I was sure you weren’t mafia!”

The room burst with laughter. The bride and groom were my aunt and uncle, and today we still laugh at the story. Yet no one ever denied that the families were sincere in asking those questions! Separated by continents, neither knew who their in-laws were. So their first impressions were largely formed by the things they paid attention to, namely movies, news channels, and culture. They simply made inferences about their in-laws based on what they knew.

Can you identify with this? I myself often do what they did. The things that I saw and heard, whether true or not, created a knowledge base that over the years shaped the way I perceive things. And in trying to know something or someone, I would subconsciously rely on this knowledge base, which includes many erroneous preconceptions that I accumulated over the years. Unsurprisingly, many of the conclusions I made about others are wrong altogether. Have you ever done this?

One way I’ve done this is when thinking about missionaries and the term “missions” itself. I’ve read heroic stories of Christians such as Jim Elliot and Hudson Taylor, so whenever I met missionaries, I pictured quixotic individuals who selflessly gave their life away for Jesus. And when I think of their work, my general impression is admittedly no less sanctimonious than a western imperialist’s: bringing Christianity to the lives of those poor souls who would otherwise never know God. I know, intellectually, that these are bent, even childish views regarding missions. Yet in those unguarded moments my thoughts reflect what is imprinted in my heart: a skewed vision about missions.

God cares about how our hearts see missions. His heart is for all the nations, and he desires that our hearts be like his. He wants to replace my distorted vision with his true one. And thankfully, he gives us grace through his words. When thinking about missions, he wants us to rely not on our world-shaped understanding but on the truth found in those words.

As I turned to the book of Revelation, I discovered a glimpse of the beautiful vision that God has for missions. These pages testify that Jesus is alive today. And in our modern age where missions often seem irrelevant, he is actively working through his loved ones to prepare his bride whom he will marry. He will not stop until he finally gathers the last of his loved ones for himself. And when that day comes, the voice of his bride—a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, tribes, peoples, and languages—will shout:

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,For the marriage of the Lamb has come,And his Bride has made herself ready.”

Missions is about Jesus preparing his bride, which includes you and me. It’s about our marriage to him. One day I will be in that wedding, and if you put your trust in him, so will you. Isn’t it clear now that we have every reason to partake in this work? Isn’t it fitting that a bride would care to prepare for her own wedding? I encourage and challenge you to find this passage and imagine for yourself the joy and splendor of your heavenly ceremony!

In your bulletin you’ll find an insert about Tenth’s Global Ties program. It lists many ways you can partake in Jesus’ work of preparing our eternal matrimony. Why not start today?