“I think missionaries are beautiful people because they carry treasure so that those searching can find it.” –Minister Allan Howard
What does it mean to be beautiful? It exceeds just glamour, it is more than skin deep. A good dictionary would emphasize that in order to be beautiful one has to epitomize a very high and specific standard. In Isaiah 6, the angel of the Lord places a live coal upon Isaiah’s unclean lips in order to purge his iniquity before he could be commissioned to go and speak on God’s behalf. In the same light, being missional is no small or facile task but it is necessary. Before gold can achieve refined perfection it must pass through fire. In order to bear the esteemed decree of the King, a messenger must be trustworthy, proven and willing above all costs to deliver a dispatched message to whomever it concerns.
One of the most mandatory notes to make about the word missional is its inevitable link to purpose. Mission without purpose is aimlessness. Jesus commands His disciples not merely to go, but to go into the world. It doesn’t stop there, we are mandated to take the gospel to every creature. Whether he lives in our own backyard or chooses to reside in the clefts of the Andes Mountains, where we are afforded the opportunity to extend an arm of comfort, gospel and truth, we must do it. Sometimes people just need to hear “Jesus loves you”, from the lips of one who has sojourned thousands of miles to utter three words, for real change to come. Kim Walker refers to the Child of God as a carrier of His presence. Do we realize the magnitude of such a call? The Old Testament details in numerous instances the existence of the Ark of the Covenant which was constructed to bear the Ten Commandments. It was a thing of beauty, constructed with shittim wood and gold (Exodus 25: 10), but what truly made it beautiful was its purpose. It carried words God had spoken, its presence in a camp could induce loss on the side of the opposition. It was so sacred that Uzzah went to his death simply for touching it, no matter how virtuous his intentions were. That we would realize the power and value of the treasure we are meant to carry to the world as Christians. We were not designed to bottle it up but to institute change wherever we find ourselves; more specifically where we were sent to go.
Romans 10:15 reminds us that:
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Now news that someone is getting married is exciting, that one’s father who has been futilely battling cancer will survive is riveting, but this news is far different from any other. It is wrapping for the gift of Eternal Life. A gift that Jesus paid for His children to share. When we are transformed by Him we become new creatures, pristine and lovely. However we are not created to be mere figurines. Beautiful feet are for mobility. Movement may result in stumping of toes, bruising of heels and brokenness of skin but when the package has been delivered, when the treasure has been found, the purpose has been effectively executed. Battered as they may appear, the beauty of the feet shines brightest upon the fulfillment of purpose.
When a missionary decides to depart for Haiti, he is oft bombarded by timorous commentary including but by no means limited to: “well don’t bring back any obeah.” Great caution must be taken of course when embarking on any mission. But if the One who is dispatching the missionary commands us not to fear, but instead to love, what great hindrance shall deter us from accomplishing the great commission?
When people speak of Haiti, even in the media, they often forget to mention the beautiful faces and contagious laughter, the rainbow coloured tapas shuttling by on pitch flooded by white, blinding sunlight; the humid air, the gently rolling waves of emerald juxtaposed with sloping, sandy, arid mounds… that though the land wears its age on its face and infrastructure crumbles beside streams of refuse, there is beauty if you open your eyes to see it. Beyond the faces, lay the hearts and when the hope of Jesus injects the heart of a man or woman, he is able to sacrifice time and money to ensure that others have access to it. He is able to give even when he is not sure he will have more. He is able to journey as far as he must whether or not he beats the 7 o’clock sundown, whether or not he falls asleep, whether or not his limbs ache for a comfortable resting place. He is able to construct schools for children to obtain the privilege of learning. She is able to tell an unassuming child that she is special and important and loved. He is able to give of himself even if it requires giving his whole self. He is able to stop the holes of need. Isn’t that what treasure is for: to make provision where there is lack? There lies true beauty, beyond the surface, in its profundity. The value of treasure remains not in its extravagant appearance but in the rippling impact lying dormant until the potential is used.
What do we do then? We let Him etch beauty into our hearts. Every ounce of treasure we could ever desire to possess that will last beyond the reach of rot and moth is locked up solely in Him. Let us move beyond the glamour of titles and accolades. A title means nothing without its purpose. Beauty that is only skin deep is only glitz. Beauty does not remain at satisfying the standard of the status quo, it is surpassing it, finding every means of imparting worth and impetus. True Beauty is deep, it is purposeful, and it is missional.