Sailing Beyond the Safe Harbor

Church window sailboat

If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself.”    —Oswald Chambers

Several years ago our church ran a Bible study encouraging parishioners to become engaged in mission in recognition of Christ’s command to spread the Gospel.  The study was based upon the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

In this parable, Jesus tells a lawyer, an expert in Mosaic Law, a story about a traveler who was beaten, robbed and left for dead by the side of a road.  A number of religiously devout Jews see the suffering man as they travel along the road, but none stops to help.  However, a Samaritan passing by sees him and stops to render assistance, treating his wounds and transporting him to an inn where he can be cared for while he recovers.

Samaritans were a group of people despised by the Jews.  A modern day equivalent of this story might be about American soldiers in Afghanistan who walk past a wounded comrade, but a member of the Taliban stops to render assistance.

The study was accompanied by a video commentary narrated by the Rev. John Ortberg.  It was filmed while Ortberg sat on a park bench.  He likened the comfortable bench to pews inside a church, where Christians have become so contented they have no desire to venture beyond the comfort zone of their church homes.

Like the Jews in the parable who would not stop to help the injured man, many Christians today are reluctant to carry God’s message beyond the doors of the church.  They’ve grown overly content sitting on their comfortable benches, avoiding situations that take them out of their comfort zones.

For Christians who have not yet matured in their understanding of the Gospel, this is not altogether bad.  In 1 Corinthians Chapter 3, St. Paul refers to such Christians as “infants in Christ” who require milk instead of the “solid food” of the Gospel.  These Christians are underdeveloped in their faith and require nurturing in the Word.  Every congregation has many such members.  A church’s primary focus should be on helping these parishioners mature in faith and preaching the Gospel to unbelievers in and outside of the congregation.

However, for mature Christians who are striving to work out their own salvation (Philippians 2:12), sitting on a comfortable bench is wasteful.  Jesus teaches us in Matthew 38: 31-40:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”   (ESV)   

mission field [2]

The biggest mission field in the world is just outside the doors of our local churches. There are dozens of opportunities for Christian service in every community.  It might entail working with the poor, the unemployed, the elderly or with needy children—the possibilities are endless. However, none of these opportunities can be seized while sitting on a bench.

The Rev. Ken R. Klaus, Pastor Emeritus of the Lutheran Hour said, “All too often the job of reaching others is left to others. That can be unfortunate. After all, there are times when you may be the best person to reach someone who is lost or wandering.” You don’t have to be an evangelist or great orator to succeed either.  All you need do is open the door for the Holy Spirit to begin His work in another person’s life. Share your joy!

As St. Paul taught us, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV).   His strength is revealed in our weakness.




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