By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I have seen the affliction of my people… I have heard their cry… And I have come down to deliver them… to bring them to… a land flowing with milk and honey… Come, and I will send you… But I will be with you…” — Exodus 3:7-12
FIRST OF FIVE PARTS
Our Biblical text for reflection is about the call of Moses at Mt. Horeb, the so-called mountain of God. Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, when God appeared to him through a “burning bush”. And there he heard the voice of God calling him to do God’s mission among his fellow Israelites who were slaves in Egypt.
It is significant to note that God revealed to Moses his own missionary purpose in an ordinary situation, while “keeping the flock”, and in an ordinary happening, “a burning bush”. But these ordinary things in life would become extraordinary in the eyes of faith, if and when they would serve as vehicles of God’s self-revelation.
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen the affliction of my people… I have heard their cry… And I have come down to deliver them… to bring them to… a land flowing with milk and honey… Come, and I will send you… But I will be with you…” (Ex. 3:7-12).
These words of the Lord to Moses picture to us not only the nature of God as a missionary God, but also the process by which this missionary God fulfills his mission in the world. The church is God’s mission in the world. And like Moses, the church is called upon to do God’s mission in the midst of a suffering people. Hence, the church should manifest in her life and witness the very nature of this missionary God.
Let us, therefore, look into this nature of God as missionary in the light of our text this morning, even as we seek to discover what spirituality for mission would require from us.
Seeing people’s affliction
First of all, our text is saying that spirituality for mission will require us to open our eyes, and to see the affliction of people.
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen the affliction of my people.” Seeing is the starting point of God’s mission in the world. The God we believe in is not a blind God, but rather a God who can see people in their affliction. We could not hide from the all-knowing eyes of the Living God. The Psalmist declares, “Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I went up to heaven you would be there; if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there” (Ps. 139:7-8). Indeed, we could not escape from the all-searching eyes of the Living God.
However, God looks at realities very differently. While we often look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart (I Sam. 16:7). Oftentimes, we can only see things around us, but God can see people. God sees not the outward beauty of things, but the inward beauty of a heart of compassion for a suffering people. God sees people in their affliction.
To see the affliction of people is the beginning of God’s mission in the world. For it is in seeing that we are involved with the reality of people around us. Seeing the affliction of people generates compassion. When Jesus Christ our Lord saw the City of Jerusalem, he wept over it; for the people were like sheep without a shepherd. And so, he spent his life in proclaiming God’s Reign that would bring about a New Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth (Lk. 19:41; cf. Rev. 21). When the Good Samaritan saw the victim of robbers on the road to Jericho, he was filled with compassion, and he did something to save the victim’s life (Lk. 10:30-37).
We have eyes to see, but oftentimes we cannot see or refuse to see people in their affliction. Prophet Isaiah said to the people of Israel, “See and see, but you do not perceive”. (Is. 6:9). Perhaps, we cannot see the affliction of people, because oftentimes we only see them as mere statistics or abstract categories. We only see them as potential members of the church, as “sinners” to be evangelized and to be converted to our own church. Or perhaps, we only see them as potential tax payers, as potential voters to be fooled and manipulated upon during election time.
Perhaps, we cannot see the affliction of people, because we think that “they are actually rich pretending to be poor”. And sometimes the affliction of people is so common, so widespread that we seem to think it is just a natural reality of life. As one writer rightly puts it, if we would stay too long in “hell”, we might think that “hell” is already “heaven”.
The sin of the Richman in the story of the Richman and Lazarus is not that he was rich, but rather that he did not see the affliction of the poor man Lazarus right there in front of his door (Cf. Lk. 19). He probably thought that Lazarus was just a mere fixture of his social environment.
Perhaps, we don’t want to see the affliction of people, because oftentimes it is painful and disturbing. Sometimes, it would even make our lives more difficult and dangerous. It would make us get involved. Hence, it is a lot easier, safer, and more comfortable to have eyes, but cannot see. We rather hide behind our masks, than to open our eyes and see the affliction of people. But then in doing so, we might be departing from our God-given task of doing God’s mission in the world.
Indeed, spirituality for mission will require to open our eyes, and to see the affliction of people. To see people in their affliction is a gift of God. It is a gift that characterizes the very nature of God as a missionary God. Hence, to see people in their affliction is to manifest in our lives the kind of God we believe in and in whom we put our ultimate trust and obedience. To see the affliction of people is to live a godly life.# nordis.net
Continued next week