Former US Secretary of State George Shultz had a tradition for commissioning new ambassadors. He would call them into his office, stand next to a large globe, and ask them to point to their country. Invariably, the Ambassadors would put their finger on the country in which they were about to start work. Secretary Shultz would smile, put his finger on the United States, and remind them that “their” country, and the focus of their mission, was America.
When we talk about mission, and what effective mission involves, it’s easy to let our context (the people we’re sent to) dominate the discussion. Certainly, we need to pay our context a ton of attention. But it cannot become our sole focus. Effective missionaries pay enormous attention also – indeed firstly – to the God who sends them. In loving and serving others, we must never forget our first love and true Master.
Daniel in Babylon is a great picture for us. His feet are firmly in Babylon – right in the centre of Babylonian life, and he speaks their language and studies their literature and in involved in their politics. But his heart – it’s in Jerusalem, city of the Living God. And three times a day he reinforces this by opening his windows towards Jerusalem (though it was far over the horizon) and re-orienting himself to the kingdom of God.
How can we have feet in Babylon, but hearts in Jerusalem? If Daniel needed a thrice-daily tangible reminder, what might we need to keep us in alignment? How can we be effective ambassadors without forgetting where our citizenship lies?
Jesus had the regular practice of withdrawing for prayer. Practices of both personal and corporate worship shape us for effective mission. Remaining in the vine is the key to fruitfulness. And yet some who drift far from God spin it as being on mission. It doesn’t work that way.
As God says in Hezekiah 11, “Those who misunderstand and misquote me will never make decent Sacred Agents.”