How to Obey a Simple Command
Over lunch with a visiting missionary friend, we spoke of the latest alerts she and her team had received from the U.S. State Department. Her particular region was not threatened—yet. But the possibility for terrorist activity was coming closer.
The waitress tended to us carefully (“More water?” “Everything taste OK?”) while our guest spoke of her contingency plans in case of an emergency evacuation. Hiding places among local natives, secret rendezvous sites, and options in case the closest airport was compromised—these were the details she shared while we savored the restaurant’s service.
I couldn’t help but reflect on Scriptures from that morning’s sermon.
First the words of Jesus to his apostles just before his crucifixion:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
And then the challenge from one of those apostles to Christ’s followers some decades later:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15).
And finally the rebuke from the Lord’s own brother to wayward Christians in his midst:
“Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
It seems clear to me that our missionary friend, like so many others we know, has taken these teachings to heart. Her previous six months had been punctuated by recurring bouts with malaria and then typhoid fever. Meanwhile, another missionary’s Facebook account from Haiti mentioned a nighttime rat bite received while she was sleeping. And we were praying for a missionary in Africa, far removed from all but the most rudimentary medical care, beset by an undiagnosed virus that left him unable to eat or drink for weeks. Suffering from critical dehydration, he was on the verge of kidney failure.
None of these has spoken any intent to leave their field of service. I think of their sacrifice and suffering, and I shake my head, echoing the words in the book of Hebrews (11:38): “The world is not worthy of them.”
But how will I know I have not succumbed to the love of this world? Must I forsake my comfortable American suburban routine to be sure I don’t love the things of this life more than those of the next?
Maybe. But afraid to do that, I search for another solution while challenged no more by the Bible’s command than by the example of those I know who so simply and beautifully are obeying it.